States spend more on movies that push smoking than on programs to prevent it

The fourteen states hand out the most lavish subsidies to Hollywood film producers together spent $1.48 billion on movies proven to recruit kids to smoke from 2010 to 2016 — $150 million more than they invested over the same period to reduce smoking.

Smokefree Movies now tracks top subsidy states and countries, updating our dollar estimates weekly. Watch the totals grow at How you pay...

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2010 to 2016, six individual states spent more to subsidize smoking movies than on programs to reduce smoking: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada and New Mexico.

New York State and Pennsylvania spent nearly as much to promote smoking as they did to reduce smoking. California, Connecticut and North Carolina spent at least two-thirds as much on films with smoking as they did on tobacco control.*

Together, the fourteen states with the most active film subsidy programs spent $1.47 billion on top-grossing movies that promote smoking between 2010 and mid-2016, compared to $1.33 billion for smoking prevention.

The CDC reports that movies with smoking will recruit six million American kids to smoke in this generation. The agency recommends that officials bring state film subsidies into line with public health "by limiting eligibility to tobacco-free movies." 

The World Health Organization has informed governments around the world that subsidizing media productions with tobacco contradicts Article 13 of the global Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Independent studies, including from the US Federal Reserve, indicate that film subsidies are economic losers overall — even before counting the health harm from these subsidized films. Florida and Michigan recently canceled their subsidy programs.

References | Film tobacco content: Breathe California TUTD database. State film subsidy details: National Conference of State Legislatures. State tobacco control spending: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

*Estimates omit subsidies for TV series shot in New York and elsewhere because comprehensive video tobacco content data is unavailable.