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The tobacco industry won't mind if smoking movies are rated PG-13. 13-year-olds will still see them.
The tobacco industry won't mind if smoking movies are rated PG13. Thirteen-year-olds will still see them. What's wrong with big stars showing kids how to smoke? With tobacco ads barred from TV and billboards, Þlm is about the only medium left to promote tobacco in the U.S. and worldwide. And it works. Studies find that teens who view lots of smoking on screen are two and a half times as likely to start smoking. Even if friends and parents don't. Only two industries in America act as if pushing poison to kids is a legitimate business. One is Big Tobacco. Publicly it denies marketing to the young - yet battles all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn any limit on its ability to do so. The other? Hollywood. Movies and videos aimed at children and teens are carrying more smoking scenes [see box]. In fact, as theaters have tightened up on kids being admitted to R-rated movies, smoking has intruded even deeper into movies rated G, PG and PG13. Is this simply coincidence? Only ten years ago, the tobacco industry was paying cash to place its brands in films (it denies payola now, just as it did to Congress in 1989). And Big Tobacco has long used film stars to glamorize cigarettes, killing many of them in the process. Has anything actually changed? Not a single tobacco company has ever objected to having its brand trademarks displayed in any movie. Tobacco kills one in three smokers - more Americans than violence, drunk driving, outlawed drugs and HIV/AIDS combined - but just 6% of top-grossing smoking movies even hint that smoking or secondhand smoke is damaging. That's "realism"? The reality is, Hollywood does Big Tobacco's dirty work today just as it has for decades past. The only question: do producers and directors do it out of corruption or stupidity? How can America tell? Take the latest example. Seeking to deflect growing national criticism, movie industry flacks are floating the idea of rating movies "with gratuitous smoking" PG13. Setting aside the gaping loophole "gratuitous" would prove to be, would PG13 ratings slow down Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds in the least? After all, for decades Big Tobacco has focused on teens about to choose starter brands like Marlboro or Camel. Rating films that teach kids how to smoke PG13 is like telling stores it's okay to sell cigarettes to thirteen-year-olds. Rating smoking films R, in contrast, might actu-ally keep more teenagers from seeing Þlms that play into Big Tobacco's marketing plans. Both Big Tobacco and Hollywood promote smoking. Both are in hot pursuit of the same teenage audience. Which industry do you work for? How can you tell? Our suggestions: ROLL ON-SCREEN CREDITS certifying that nobody on a production accepted anything of value from any tobacco company, its agents or fronts. RUN STRONG ANTI-TOBACCO ADS IN FRONT OF SMOKING ADS. Put them on tapes and DVDs, too. Strong spots are proven to immunize audiences. QUIT IDENTIFYING TOBACCO BRANDS in the background or in action. Brandnames are unnecessary. RATE NEW SMOKING MOVIES "R" to give parents genuine power to protect children against the tobacco industry. In About a Boy, rated PG13, filmdom's cutest cad chain-smokes around a 12-year-old boy he's mentoring. Another recent PG13, Life or Something Like It, paired Angelina Jolie with Camels. Hollywood began to introduce smoking into more kid-rated movies after Congress pressed the industry to keep more teens out of movies rated R. Two out of three tobacco shots in the Top 50 movies (April 2000-March 2001) were in kid-rated films. Now on video: Shots/hr* Film Rating Director Box-office Gross 33 The Perfect Storm PG13 Wolfgang Petersen $ 182 million 25 What Women Want PG13 Nancy Meyers $ 182 million 23 Charlie's Angels PG13 Joseph McGinty Nichols $ 125 million 19 The Family Man PG13 Brett Ratner $ 76 million 19 X-Men PG13 Brian Singer $ 157 million 14 Vertical Limit PG13 Martin Campbell $ 68 million 13 102 Dalmatians G Kevin Lima $ 67 million 12 Save the Last Dance PG13 Thomas Carter II $ 89 million 11 Road to El Dorado PG Bibo Bergeron et al. $ 51 million 10 Shanghai Noon PG13 Tom Dey $ 57 million 8 U-571 PG13 Jonathan Mostow $ 77 million 8 Gone in 60 Seconds PG13 Dominic Sena $ 102 million 6 Cast Away PG Robert Zemeckis $ 232 million 6 Meet the Parents PG13 Jay Roach $ 166 million 4 Finding Forrester PG13 Gus Van Sant $ 52 million *Shots including tobacco product, use or reference / total running time. Full list on web site.
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