Ad 14

The New York Times
Date of first publication: 
Want to keep four out of five PG-13 movies from pushing tobacco at kids? Rate them R instead.
Parent companies in ad: 
Want to keep four out of five PG13 movies from pushing tobacco at kids? Rate them R instead. It's gotten worse: From July through October 2002, 92% of top-grossing PG13 films in theaters featured smoking. To protect kids from tobacco addiction, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the L.A. County Dept. of Health Services and others now say tobacco use in the movies should be rated R. The last time there was this much smoking in movies was 1950, when figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood started dying of emphysema, lung cancer and heart disease. On-screen smoking declined in the 1970s and 1980s, even while tobacco companies were paying producers to place their brands in blockbusters. Big Tobacco adopted a voluntary policy against Hollywood payola in 1989, but the amount of smoking in movies has actually doubled since then. Placement of cigarettes continued at least through 1993, cigars through 1997. In 1998, Big Tobacco again agreed not to place its products in movies. Over the next two years, tobacco's screen time in kid-rated films jumped 50%. Since 2000, when studios and theater owners cracked down on underage teens seeing R-rated films, smoking just followed the target audience. Four out of five PG13 movies now promote smoking. Whether movies play along with Big Tobacco's marketing strategy out of corruption or stupidity, the harm is the same. Researchers have found that teens whose favorite stars smoke on screen are sixteen times more likely to think positively of smoking. Kids 11-14 who've seen a lot of smoking in movies are three times as likely to try it themselves. Three thousand kids a day become addicted. Half will die from it. Big Tobacco knows movies sell cigarettes "better than any advertising," as secret tobacco files point out. But cigarettes don't sell movies. That should make it easier for the U.S. film industry to start acting responsibly. Bottom line? Big Tobacco kills 450,000 Americans every year - and addicts a million new smokers, most of them under eighteen. Rating smoking movies R would: Let parents make informed decisions about their kids' exposure. Encourage the studios' corporate owners to join the national consensus against tobacco promotion to youth. Preserve the creative freedom to include smoking in any film project. Conform to the MPAA's policy on "strong language" which, like smoking, is legal but subject to an R rating. Exempt movies which accurately portray an historical character or make clear the dire consequences of tobacco use. Older films would not be re-rated. Along with the R rating, health authorities from California to New York and Geneva also support other reasonable measures: strong anti-smoking spots before a smoking film; closing credits attesting that nobody associated with the film received anything of value from Big Tobacco; no more brand identification. The idea isn't to keep kids out of more movies. It's to keep smoking out of more movies kids see. But Hollywood is smart enough to work that out for itself.
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