Ad 21

Publication(s): 
The New York Times
Date of first publication: 
2004-05-21T00:00:00
Headline: 
Their movie studios deliver 220,000 kids a year to the tobacco industry. They could stop it with a phone call.
Parent companies in ad: 
Text: 
Their movie studios deliver 220,000 kids a year to the tobacco industry. They could stop it with a phone call. Noboyuki Idei, Sony Corporation - 55,000* adolescent smokers delivered to U.S. tobacco industry annually by Disney motion pictures. Michael Eisner, Disney Company - 66,000* adolescent smokers delivered to U.S. tobacco industry annually by Sony motion pictures. Richard Parsons, Time Warner - 98,000* adolescent smokers delivered to U.S. tobacco industry annually by Warner motion pictures. In-Theater Tobacco Impressions (1999-2003)* Media company Total tobacco impressions Share of 6-17 impressions Time Warner 8.1 billion 25% Disney 5.4 billion 17% Sony 4.4 billion 14% Universal 3.8 billion 11% Viacom 3.4 billion 10% News Corp. 3.1 billion 9% MGM 1.6 billion 5% Dreamworks 1.4 billion 4% All others 1.4 billion 4% Studios or parent companies ranked by the number of estimated in-theater tobacco impressions delivered to audiences of all ages, and by their share of all in-theater tobacco impressions delivered to moviegoers ages 6-17. Major studios, some with a documented prior history of payoffs from the tobacco industry, are now responsible for delivering at least half of all new young smokers in the U.S. Yet so far, the studios' lobbying organization, the MPAA, has refused to give future on-screen tobacco use an "R" age-classification, as leading health advocates recommend. The "R," while voluntary, would create an incentive for producers to avoid smoking in films intended for younger audiences, just as they now temper raw language and violence. Filmmakers would remain free to include smoking in any movies they choose. But this non-intrusive rating change would effectively reduce kids' exposure to on-screen smoking, and subsequent addiction, by an estimated 60%. The MPAA's stonewalling means little. After all, the major studios really call the shots on industry policy. And the major studios' top managers answer to others even more powerful - the chairs and CEOs of the giant media corporations that own them. The studios, perhaps uncertain of their potential liability, are frozen in the face of a public health threat of historic magnitude. Genuine leadership at the highest corporate level is now required to use the "R" to reduce kids' exposure to on-screen smoking, permanently, industrywide. No other health challenge in the U.S. has such a ready answer. Three men can pull out their phones, voice-dial their studio chiefs, and save 50,000 lives a year. How many more movies? How many more years? How many more hundreds of thousands of kids? Senators Urge Action at Hearings on Capitol Hill U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Tuesday, May 11, 2004 Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada): "Why is it okay to modify [the rating system] for nudity, for language, but not okay to modify it for tobacco, the number one preventable health problem we have in this country?" Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon): "The ball is in your court, Mr. Valenti. I guarantee you, if something isn't done by the industry, there are certainly going to be efforts [by lawmakers]." Warner Bros. Movies: Licensed to Kill in Africa In 2002, British American Tobacco (BAT) licensed four Warner Bros. movies for a twelve-week, six-city "cinema tour" promoting its Rothmans cigarettes in Nigeria: Collateral Damage - Arnold Schwarzenegger Ocean's 11 - George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts Romeo Must Die - Jet Li Showtime - Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy Challenged by Nigerian and U.S. health advocates, in January 2003 Warner said that the Films had been pirated and BAT would be told to cease and desist. But in March 2003, the L.A. Times reported that British American Tobacco had in fact licensed the Films from Warner's South African distributor, Warner Nu Metro. Only after health advocates launched faxes to Warner Bros.' Barry Meyer did Warner agree to donate 50% of the money it got from BAT to Nigerian tobacco prevention groups and 50% to UNICEF. (In November 2003, Nigerian NGOs received $5,000; the UNICEF donation has not been confirmed.) However, Time Warner refused to pledge publicly that it would not license its Films to tobacco companies and their agents again.
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