Ontario legislators want to cut kids' exposure

Unless things change in Ontario, Canada, onscreen smoking will recruit 185,000 kids to smoke. Now legislators want their film rating agency to take action.

So far, through December 2017, fourteen parliamentarians from Ontario's three major political parties have petitioned the Committee on Government Agencies to "examine ways in which the regulations of the Film Classification Act could be amended to reduce smoking in youth-rated films released in Ontario." (Read full petition here.)

In Canada, unlike the US, film ratings for theaters are under official supervision, at the provincial level. This can give the public a say in how the ratings work — for example, awarding an '18A' (Canadian) rating to future films with tobacco content. Four out of five Ontario adults want smoking out of youth-rated films.

Will the big US studios resist? They all have offices in Toronto. They essentially control the country's video ratings. And they likely enjoy box office windfalls when their R-rated movies are youth-rated in Ontario, as most of them are.

But when film ratings are updated for smoking, film producers can adjust. After all, they already routinely calibrate language, violence and sexual content to earn the rating they want for marketing purposes. Why not reserve tobacco for mature audiences?

In Ontario alone, the '18A' would avert 30,000 tobacco deaths in this generation of kids. We're confident legislators will increase the pressure. For Hollywood, which depends on sales outside the US, Ontario should be yet another wake-up call.