2015 Numbers: After rebound, film smoking falls to near-lows

After rebounding in recent years, 2015 tobacco counts fell across most of the film industry, in some cases approaching or exceeding 2010 lows. (See film list)

 

Percent of youth-rated and R-rated films with smoking, 2002-2015

Films with tobacco

Overall, 50 percent of all top-grossing US films featured tobacco imagery in 2015, down from 72 percent in 2002, when the Smokefree Movies campaign was launched. Thirteen percent of G/PG films, 47 percent of PG-13 films and 69 percent of R-rated films showed tobacco.

In 2015, 46 percent of all films with tobacco carried a youth-accessible rating from the MPAA (PG or PG-13). There were 31 youth-rated films with tobacco in 2015, half the number in 2002.

 

Number of tobacco incidents in youth-rated and R-rated films, 2002-2015

Tobacco incidents in films

Youth-rated films featured 607 tobacco incidents in 2015, fewer than half the number audiences saw as recently as 2014. The 2015 count nearly matched the 14-year low of 594 incidents in 2010.

However, the number of tobacco incidents in the average youth-rated film that had smoking has not changed much over the years. There were 21 tobacco incidents per smoking film in 2002 and 20 in 2015.

Company performance

Tobacco performance of MPAA-member companies (Comcast, Disney, Fox, Sony, Time Warner and Viacom) diverged from independents like Lionsgate, Relativity and Weinstein.

MPAA companies released 19 youth-rated films with tobacco in 2015, no real change from 2010 but less than half the 48 youth-rated films with tobacco in 2002.

In contrast, independents released 12 youth-rated films with tobacco in 2015, one-third more than in 2010 and little-changed from fourteen years ago.

With MPAA companies’ output down and independents’ steady, the indies’ share of youth-rated films with tobacco has grown from 23 percent in 2002 to nearly 40 percent in 2015.

Sony was the only MPAA company to score a “corporate best” in 2015 — its four youth-rated films with smoking were Sony’s fewest since 2002. However, no other MPAA companies released more than four youth-rated films with tobacco, either. That uniformity is a first.

Viacom and Comcast had the fewest youth-rated tobacco incidents. They were followed by Time Warner (30), Sony (98), Disney (123), and Fox (150). The MPAA companies’ total (415) was their lowest in fourteen years.

Summary

While smoking in movies is back to historic lows, as we learned following the low in 2010, there is no guarentee that it will stay there.  The R-rating for smoking is the only way to ensure that every producer and distributor will be operating by the same rules for onscreen smoking, whether or not they are owned by a media conglomerate.

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Our full 2015 report, with final impressions and more in-depth analysis, will appear in February 2016. Film content data is provided by Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, a project of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails.

Images: 
Percent of youth-rated and R-rated films with smoking, 2002-2015
Number of tobacco incidents in youth-rated and R-rated films, 2002-2015