Seven US Senators call on MPAA "to take additional actions to prevent youth smoking initiation”

Film industry readies smoke and mirrors.On June 4, 2018, seven US Senators led by Edward J. Markey (D-MA) wrote a letter to MPAA chief Charles Rivkin asking for real action to “minimize" smoking in youth-rated films, declaring:

Our nation's dramatic decline in youth smoking is a tremendous achievement, but on-screen depictions remain a threat to this progress and threaten to re-normalize tobacco use in our society.

The letter gives Rivkin, who succeeded Chris Dodd as head of the MPAA  in January 2018, about two weeks (until June 22, 2018) to answer four hard questions:

1. What steps will MPAA take to ensure responsible and consistent practices and reduce tobacco depictions, including e-cigarette depictions, in youth-rated movies?
2. How will MPAA ensure uniform and consistent warnings for parents and viewers ...

3. The 2007 recommendations in the Harvard School of Public Health report commissioned by MPAA suggest that it "take substantive and effective action to eliminate the depiction of tobacco smoking from films accessible to children and youths." Please describe all actions MPAA has taken since 2007 to fulfill this recommendation.

4. Does MPAA support assigning an "R" rating to movies that depict  smoking, except in circumstances where the consequences of tobacco use are clearly reflected or where a historical figure who actually smoked is portrayed? If not, why not?

This letter is not the first US Senate push against youth-rated smoking. The Senate held a hearing in May 2004. In June 2007, Sen. Durbin and the late Senators Edward Kennedy and Frank Lautenberg critiqued what they called a "highly subjective policy" announced by the MPAA under pressure from state AGs. (Fact: From 2007 to 2017, under this policy, half of all top-grossing US films featured smoking; half of the films with smoking were youth-rated by the MPAA.)

The other signatories were Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

The US Senators' June 4 letter and a California Senate resolution backing the R-rating both arrive just as a one-year deadline set by national health groups for the MPAA to implement the R-rating expired on June 1, 2018.

The MPAA is fighting California State Senator Richard Pan's resolution,   Look for MPAA to offer Senator Markley and his colleagues the same half truths it sent to Senator Pan opposing his reolution; here is the whole truth.

• Email your support to US Senators MarkeyBlumenthalBrown, DurbinGillibrandMurray and Van Hollen
• Talk back to the MPAA by promoting the new R-rating petition — 850+ signers since last week!