Ad 120

The Hollywood Reporter and Variety
Date of first publication: 
Hollywood chokes
Parent companies in ad: 
Smokefree Movies AD #120 (June 2017) | Substantiation [HEADLINE] Hollywood chokes. [LEADER] “Every major studio knows how to keep smoking out of its PG-13 films.” Since 2010, each major studio (and independents as a group) has for one year reduced the average number of tobacco incidents across PG-13 films to low levels (0-4 incidents per PG-13 film, smoking and smokefree). Polansky JR, Titus K, Atayeva R, Glantz SA (2017) Smoking in top-grossing US movies: 2016. Table 2. UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Available at “But progress stopped half a decade ago…” There was a statistically significant downward trend in the number of tobacco incidents in youth-rated films between 2005 and 2010 (p=.014). However, tobacco incidents were essentially flat from 2010 through 2016 ( p=.913). Polansky, Titus et al. (2017). Incident trends in youth-rated films, p. 8. U.S. CDC (2014) Smoking in the Movies (fact sheet). Overview, Bullet 5. Available at “…America’s #1 killer.” “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.” U.S. CDC (2017) “Smoking and Tobacco Use: Fast Facts.” Available at [MAIN TEXT] “The major studios have known since 2003…” In December 2003, in briefings arranged by the MPAA in Los Angeles, Dartmouth researcher Madeline Dalton, PhD (accompanied by state Attorneys General and other officials) presented the findings of the first large-scale studies of kids’ on-screen smoking exposure to the major studios’ production executives and other Hollywood stakeholders. The presentation estimated that, at that time, 1,000 adolescents per day were initiating smoking in the U.S. because of their exposure to smoking on screen. Dalton M. (2003) AG’s revised.MD6-Dalton-1203.ppt “…mobilized state Attorneys General…” Correspondence (2003-2012) between state Attorneys General and the Motion Picture Association of America can be consulted at “ …triggered three Capitol Hill hearings…” (1) 1989 “Tobacco product placement in films” (Rep. Thomas Lukens), House Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Hazardous Materials. Lukens and two co-sponsors subsequently introduced legislation to ban youth-oriented tobacco advertising, including paid brand placement in films. Mekemson C and Glantz SA (2002) How the tobacco industry built its relationship with Hollywood. Tobacco Control 2002; 11(Suppl I):i81–i91. Available at (2) 2004: U.S. Senate hearing on smoking in youth-rated movies “Hearing on Smoking in the Movies.” (May 2004) Senate Commerce Committee. (3) 2007: House committee urges film studios to limit smoking “Images Kids See on Screen” (110th Congress) Hearing before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Committee on Energy and Commerce. “…brought pressure from the World Health Organization…” Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (2004) calls on signatories to end sponsorship and other tobacco promotion in media including films. Publications clarifying obligations and policy options include FCTC Article 13 guidelines (2008); Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship: Depiction of tobacco in entertainment media (2016); and the third edition of Smoke-free Movies: From evidence to action (2016). “…peaked in 2005 and then declined through 2010.” U.S. CDC. “Smoking in the Movies” (fact sheet). Fig 1: Tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating, 1991-2015. Archived and current fact sheets are available at A re-formatted version of chart, with 2016 data, is included in the ad itself. The chart is based on TUTD-Breathe California data, analyzed by UCSF CTCRE. “If that trend had continued, youth-rated films would be 100% smokefree today...Instead progress lurched to a stop.” Polansky, Titus et al. (2017) “Since 2010, the major studios and independents have released…” All data from TUTD-Breathe California data base. The same data set was used for the analysis in Polansky, Titus et al. (2017) and for CDC’s fact sheets. “In 2012, rigorous research involving 50,000 kids…” Personal communication from James D. Sargent, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine; Co-Director, Cancer Control Research Program, Norris Cotton Cancer Center; Principal Investigator on numerous population studies of on-screen smoking’s effects on adolescents. “…led the U.S. Surgeon General to conclude that exposure…causes kids to smoke.” “The evidence is sufficient to conclude that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking in young people.” U.S. Surgeon General. Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: A report of the Surgeon General. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. Atlanta, GA. 8 March 2012. (See publication references for studies cited.) “Health experts first proposed [the R-rating] fifteen years ago.”  Glantz SA. Smoking in teenagers and watching films showing smoking: Hollywood needs to stop promoting smoking worldwide. British Medical Journal. 2001;323:1378. 15 December 2001. Comment on Effect of seeing tobacco use in films on trying smoking among adolescents: cross sectional study. [BMJ. 2001] Available at Evidence-based remedies proposed in this “Comment” were developed in consultation with US health organizations. Starting in March 2001, UCSF-based Smokefree Movies also “challenged” the US film industry to adopt the R-rating in the first of a series of full-page newspaper ads, which ran in Variety and the West Coast edition of The New York Times: “Big Tobacco says the payoffs stopped years ago. So why are Hollywood’s biggest names still shilling for the world’s deadliest industry?” Available at “The studios heard it directly at a 2013 Los Angeles briefing.” See: Dalton M (2003). “In 2007, when the MPAA commissioned Harvard School of Public Health…” Bloom BR (2007) “Addressing the issues of ‘Directorial Freedom’ and ‘Academic Freedom” in: Bloom BR, Samet JM, Winsten JA. Presentations to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on smoking in the movies. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 23 Feb 2007. Available at “In 2014, the Surgeon General reported that the R-rating would reduce youth smoking…” “Updating the R-rating to reduce adolescents’ in-theater exposure...would reduce young people’s smoking rates by 18%.” U.S. Surgeon General (2014) The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at “The U.S. CDC estimates that the R-rating would prevent a million tobacco deaths…” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking in the movies: 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. Atlanta, GA. 22 August 2014. (Reiterated in the updated fact sheet of 6 April 2015). Available at and “Yet [the MPAA’s] official rating guidelines never mention ‘tobacco’ or ‘smoking.’” MPAA, NATO (2010) Classification and Rating Rules. Available at “But these policies are riddled with loopholes that allow smoking in any youth-rated film.” The major studios’ published tobacco depiction policies commonly allow for “creative” and other subjective justifications for smoking in the portion of youth-rated films covered by their policies. Some films (such as co-productions with other studios, films with distribution-only deals, and many films produced outside the United States) may not be covered at all. No studio expressly bars the display of actual tobacco brands or prevents film production companies under contract to the studio from making tobacco deals. To read the tobacco depiction policies, download: For a list of subjective exceptions and the percentage of youth-rated movies with smoking released while each company’s policy has been in effect, see: “From 2015 to 2016, major studios actually boosted the amount of smoking…” Tobacco incidents in top grossing, youth-rated film increased among five of the six major studios (MPAA-members), which all have tobacco depiction policies: Comcast (Universal), Fox, Sony, Time Warner, and Viacom (Paramount). Only Disney saw a reduction. There was a net increase across this group of industry-dominant companies. Polansky, Titus et al. (2017) Tables 3. “PG-13 tobacco impressions jumped nearly 60 percent in a single year.” 2.86 billion impressions from 2015 youth-rated films vs. 4.53 billion in 2016. Polansky, Titus et al. (2017) Tables 2. “Large budget films from major studios still account for most of the tobacco exposure…” Polansky, Titus et al (2017). “Since 2010, the major studios that govern the MPAA and its rating system…” TUTD-Breathe California data, compiled by UCSF CTCRE. “…Hollywood collaborated with the tobacco industry…” Lum KL, Polansky JR, Jackler RK, Glantz SA (2008) Signed, sealed and delivered: 'Big tobacco' in Hollywood, 1927-1951. Tobacco Control. 2008;17(5):313-323. Available at Mekemson C and Glantz SA (2002) How the tobacco industry built its relationship with Hollywood. Tobacco Control 2002; 11(Suppl I):i81–i91. Available at Polansky JR, Glantz SA. (2016). Tobacco product placement and its reporting to the Federal Trade Commission. UC San Francisco: Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Available at Tobacco industry cross-promotion and product placement activity in movies is described in: U.S. Surgeon General (2012). See "Historical links between the tobacco companies and the movie industry" (Chapter 5, pages 565-566). “…apply an R-rating to any motion picture with tobacco imagery submitted for classification after June 1, 2018…” EXPLANATION: Films are submitted to the MPAA for review and rating when the “negative” (industry term for the final, edited film master) is complete. Swift adoption of the R-rating under these terms would not force re-shoots on many current productions but would put all film projects in active development on notice of the new standards. This is both a realistic and rapid timetable to avoid further harm to young audiences.
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