Hollywood nears deadline to R-rate smoking in US

A one-year deadline set by major US public health and medical organizations for the film industry to implement the R-rating for tobacco imagery will expire on June 1, 2018.

The groups set the deadline in reaction to the US CDC's finding that Hollywood as a whole made no real progress on the issue since 2010. 

The major studios' trade group, the MPAA, has in the past rejected what it terms an "automatic" R-rating for smoking. In reality, the rating proposal supported by national and international health authorities and North American public opinion polls provides exceptions for smoking by actual people who smoked (as in documentaries or biographical dramas) and films that realistically depict the health consequences of tobacco use. 

Recent events suggest the film industry will face a backlash if it blows past the June 2018 deadline:

May 8, 2018 | A resolution introduced in the California legislature backs the R-rating and encourages state and local agencies to address smoking on all screens.

May 7, 2018 | In Canada, more than twenty members of provincial parliament from across Ontario's three political parties have read-in petitions backing the 18-rating, determined at the province level. 

April 26, 2018 | CDC's latest fact sheet on movie smoking reports: "The percentage of PG-13 movies with tobacco incidents increased from 35% in 2016 to 50% in 2017, the highest level since 2009."

In addition to the R-rating, the CDC lists other effective interventions: requiring producers to certify no-payoffs, ending tobacco brand display and making films with smoking ineligible for public production subsidies. Since 2010, states have handed out nearly $250 million a year in tax credits and rebates to Hollywood producers of films with smoking.

Warning that "only a few days remain," the health consortium that launched the 12-month countdown published a full page ad in Variety and The Hollywod Reporter on May 15, 2018. 

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• View PDF of the May 15, 2018, ad

2017 partner letter setting June 2018 deadline