Ad 23

The New York Times
Date of first publication: 
Now who wants smoking out of kid-rated movies? The same kind of shareholders who kept investment out of apartheid South Africa.
Parent companies in ad: 
Now who wants smoking out of kid-rated movies? The kind of shareholders who kept investment out of apartheid South Africa. Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, including five major health systems voting millions in Disney shares, join leading U.S. health groups calling on the media giants to keep smoking out of future films rated G, PG and PG-13. Two-thirds of the estimated 15.8 billion tobacco impressions delivered by G, PG and PG-13 movies over the past five years came from studios owned by Disney, TimeWarner, Viacom and GE. Shareholders start asking questions this fall. Yes, ICCR members speak for faith-based pension funds and endowments. But they're not trying to reduce kids' exposure to smoking on-screen for moralistic reasons. They're simply responding to the scientific evidence, just as public health professionals, state Attorneys General, U.S. Senators, and tens of thousands of young people worldwide have done. This evidence shows that the more smoking kids see in movies, the more likely they are to start smoking. Not only is smoking in movies more influential than nonsmoking parents and more powerful than traditional tobacco advertising, it's now the #1 recruiter of new, young smokers in the United States - 390,000 teens every year. The unique power of movies explains why tobacco companies spent millions to put smoking on screen. Such product placement is now barred by legal agreement. Yet smoking in films is as heavy as it's been since 1950. Why? Two possibilities, neither reassuring. Either moviemakers still take tobacco payoffs, in which case they're corrupt. Or else they replenish Big Tobacco's customer base for free, in which case they're stupid. Mainstream investors need to wonder about the media companies' liability long term. Just look at the government's RICO case against the tobacco industry. At the very least, America's biggest media brands are risking their reputations. And what about tobacco-screened funds? Shouldn't they have movie screens, too? Four ways to solve this tomorrow. Educating the Hollywood studios hasn't worked. Their corporate parents (including non-U.S. Sony/Columbia and News Corp./ Fox) must take the lead on company- and industry-wide policies: Certify no payoffs in future smoking films. Closing credits should certify that nobody on the production received anything of value from a tobacco company or its agent. Run strong anti-tobacco ads in front of smoking movies. They're proven to immunize audiences. Quit identifying tobacco brands. Brand names are unnecessary in the background or in action. Rate new smoking movies "R." Filmmakers should calibrate smoking imagery, which kills, the same way they now calibrate offensive language, which harms no one. This simple change to the voluntary rating system would cut movie smoking's effect on kids in half, saving 50,000 lives a year in the U.S. alone. [box] Five major non-profit health care systems, with more than 100 hospitals nationwide, are among ICCR members filing resolutions with The Disney Company for the Spring 2005 Annual Meeting: Bon Secours Health System, Marriottsville, MD Catholic HealthCare West, San Francisco, CA Christus Health, Houston, TX St. Joseph Health System, Orange, CA Trinity Health, Detroit, MI Co-filers include: As You Sow, San Francisco, CA Brethren Benefit Trust, Elgin, IL Catholic Equity Fund, Milwaukee, WI Congregation of St. Agnes, Fond du Lac, WI Philadelphia Franciscan Sisters, Aston, PA Racine Dominican Sisters, Racine, WI Sisters of St. Dominic of Sinsinawa, WI Springfield Dominican Sisters, Springfield, IL Ursuline Sisters of the Eastern Province, Bronx, NY Is Mickey teaching kids to smoke? In the last 5 years, 88% of Disney's live-action PG-13 films from Touchstone and Miramax included smoking, more than any other studio.