November 20, 2002
The New York Times
The evidence is in. Health authorities agree. It's time Hollywood took smoking dead seriously.
THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
"Smoking in the movies is a major problem worldwide because it represents such a powerful promotional force...It not only encourages children to begin smoking but helps reinforce tobacco industry marketing images...The American motion picture industry plays a crucial role in creating this problem because of the worldwide reach of the movies it makes and its role as exemplar for other filmmakers."
AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
Pysicians dedicated to the health of America
"We agree that the use of smoking in movies is often gratuitous, serving no purpose but to glamorize and inappropriately reinforce smoking as a desirable behavior. This is particularly problematic as it applies to youth, since smoking in movies has been shown in several studies to be a risk factor for initiation of smoking by adolescents...We also support your four policy recommendations to reduce tobacco use in movies."
Through corruption or stupidity, Hollywood movies have become one of Big Tobacco's last major channels to young people.
Censorship is not the answer.
If film directors want to shill for multibillion dollar tobacco corporations for free, that's their business. But Big Tobacco is a business, too, taking five million lives a year worldwide. Enough.
The World Health Organization, American Medical Association and others, including the Los Angeles County Dept. of Health Services and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, urge the film industry to implement the following policies now.
Certify no payoffs. Producers should post a certificate in the closing credits declaring that no one on the production received anything of value in exchange for using or displaying tobacco products.
Require strong anti-smoking ads. Theaters and videos should run effective counter-tobacco advertising before films with any tobacco presence, regardless of the film's rating.
Stop identifying tobacco brands. No tobacco brand identification in movies; no brand images or ads in action sequences or scene backgrounds.
Rate new smoking movies "R." The Rating Board should issue an "R" rating to films that show smoking or use tobacco advertisements or brand images. Such films could be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote the Rating Board feels that the presentation of tobacco clearly and unambiguously reflects the dangers and consequences of tobacco use or accurately represents the smoking behavior of an actual historical figure, so that a lesser rating would more responsibly respect the opinion of American parents.