Ad 19

Date of first publication: 
Big Tobacco's favorites to lead the Motion Picture Association of America
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Big Tobacco's favorites to lead the Motion Picture Association of America: Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) Tobacco backing: at least $82,700 Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) Tobacco backing: at least $43,300 Ex-Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) Tobacco backing: at least $91,500 This summer, Time named three front-runners in the race to succeed Jack Valenti at the MPAA, which represents major studios under fire for smoking in kid-rated movies. All three men have accepted Big Tobacco money. Their total take? At least $217,500. Half of the House and Senate take no tobacco money at all. In contrast, Tauzin ranks #3 in the House and #10 in America for tobacco money. John Breaux ranked #7 in the Senate at his last election. And unlike Thompson, they don't even come from a tobacco state. Why should it matter to Big Tobacco if Disney, MGM, News Corp., Paramount, Sony, Time Warner and Universal choose Thompson, Tauzin or Breaux? Big Tobacco has money on all three to win, place or show. But you should care. Because Big Tobacco already has a toxic relationship with Hollywood. According to their own confidential files, tobacco companies have long considered the movies uniquely powerful marketing tools. Over the last decade, as smoking scenes in movies have doubled, health researchers have established just how efficiently Hollywood movies inþuence kids to start smoking. Tracking studies confirm that movies from major studios recruit over half of new young smokers. Only Hollywood spinmeisters dispute these findings. And they sound more and more like Big Tobacco's own PR hacks mocking lung cancer statistics and denying the dangers of secondhand smoke. Most of America's Attorneys General wrote the MPAA on August 26 expressing grave concern over the effects of smoking movies and asking it to help solve the problem. But the MPAA, þack-catcher for the seven major studios, will likely do the usual þack-catching dance: try to delay action, deþect attention, dilute concern, discuss it to death. While behind the scenes, the seven studio heads who really run the MPAA hire Hollywood's next "ambassador to the world" right off Big Tobacco's political payroll. Instead of digging in deeper, studio heads should make simple, verifiable policy changes: Rate new smoking movies "R." No more brand imagery. Run anti-smoking spots before smoking films and on video. Certify no payoffs. Corruption or stupidity? Get any closer to Big Tobacco and no studio will have any deniability left.
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