Annual report: PG-13 smoking jumps 66% since 2015

The latest UCSF-Breathe California annual report on smoking in US top-grossing films finds backsliding, not progress:

 PG-13 films with tobacco | 50% in 2017, the largest share since 2009

Tobacco incidents per PG-13 film | 15 incidents in 2017, on average, up 66 percent since 2015

Youth-rated tobacco impressions | 4.6 billion in 2017, a 37 percent increase in theater-audience exposure since 2015.

Overall, analysis of the 136 top-grossing films released in 2017 shows major studios release fewer youth-rated films with smoking than a decade ago, yet still account for 83 percent of youth-rated tobacco exposures. Smaller independent film companies have made little or no change.

Exploiting biographical films

This year's report looks more closely at biographical films — films depicting at least one smoker who actually existed in real life. The number of "biopics" has surged since 2012-13, when the last major studios adopted corporate policies on tobacco depictions. Analysts found:

• By 2017, biopics accounted for nearly half (49%) of tobacco incidents in top-grossing films

• From 2010 to 2017, youth-rated biopics average more than twice as much smoking as other youth-rated films with any smoking

• In biopics of all ratings, invented smokers outnumber "actual" smokers 3-to-1.

Smokefree Movies' widely-backed proposal to R-rate future films with smoking would exempt films that depict actual smokers, as in a biographical drama or documentary. The data suggest that, while film studios delay adopting the R-rating itself, the biographical exception is exploited to pack more smoking into mass-market films. 

Download the latest report: 2017 films

The 2017 film report is based on Breathe California's Onscreen Tobacco Database, maintained by UCSF. Data is updated weekly, accessible for public search, and referenced in the CDC's ongoing surveillance of on-screen smoking. 

Major studio films tracked in the database include those from MPAA-members Comcast (Universal), Disney, Fox, Sony, Time Warner (Warner Bros.) and Viacom (Paramount). Independents with top-grossing films in 2017 include A24, Amazon, Bleecker Street, Blumhouse, Broad Green, CBS, Entertainment Studios, Lionsgate, Open Road, STX and Weinstein.