New report: PG-13 films deliver 59% more tobacco exposure in 2016

The latest annual report on tobacco in movies finds that the US film industry failed to keep up the progress it made toward smokefree films from 2005 to 2010.

Despite every major studio publishing a policy addressing onscreen smoking, tobacco incidents have not declined since 2011. If studios had simply kept up their earlier pace, all kid-rated movies would have been smokefree by early 2015.

As it is, in 2016, youth-rated films delivered 59 percent more tobacco impressions to domestic (US and Canadian) moviegoers of all ages than they did the year before.


Download the full report (16 pp)

Polansky JR, Titus K, Atayeva R, Glantz SA. Smoking in top-grossing US movies: 2016. UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. June 2017.


Summary of report findings

• If historical patterns are maintained, exposure to on-screen smoking will recruit 6.4 million smokers from among today’s children. Two million of those recruited to smoke by films will die prematurely from tobacco-induced diseases.

• The number of youth-rated (G/PG/PG-13) films with smoking declined by 61 percent between 2002 and 2016. While the number of PG and PG-13 films with smoking reached historic lows in 2016, one-quarter of youth-rated films featured smoking in 2016, including one in three films rated PG-13.

• The number of tobacco incidents in youth-rated films declined 37 percent from 2002 to 2016, but 2016 levels were above their historic low in 2010.

• Total in-theater tobacco impressions delivered by youth-rated films declined 75 percent from 2002 to 4.5 billion impressions in 2016. However, youth-rated impressions in 2016 were 59 percent above their historic low in 2015 (2.9 billion).

• The share of in-theater tobacco impressions delivered by youth-rated films declined from their historic high of 68 percent in 2011 to an historic low of 28 percent in 2016.

• Fewer youth-rated films with large budgets feature tobacco imagery than in 2002, yet these films still account for most moviegoer exposure to smoking onscreen. Major studios and independents have reduced the number of lower-budget youth-rated films with smoking at a slower rate.

• Most decreases in the number of tobacco incidents in youth-rated movie smoking took place between 2002 and 2010, with no substantial change from 2011 to 2016. If the rate of change observed pre-2010 had persisted, youth-rated movies would have been entirely smokefree by early 2015.

• Only the proposed R-rating covering all companies, including the independents, and all films, whether low- or high-budget, will protect children and adolescents by making the films they see most smokefree.

Annual reports on tobacco imagery in top-grossing films are compiled by Breathe California and the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, using the Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! database.

More resources | Find a list of all 2016 youth-rated films with smoking, annual reports for 2011 through 2016, and other helpful summaries at UCSF Smokefree Movies > Tools & Resources