Ad 40

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"The industry we seek to negate is powerful and resourceful." — Sen. Robert Kennedy
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“The industry we seek to negate is powerful and resourceful. Each new effort to regulate will bring new ways to evade. Still, we must be equal to the task. For the stakes involved are nothing less than the lives and health of millions all over the world.” — U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, Sept. 12, 1967, spearheading the campaign that ended tobacco advertising on TV and radio in 1970. The tobacco industry subsequently turned to systematic product placement in motion pictures. Bobby (2006: Sony/ The Weinstein Co.) features a 30-second, two-angle, center-screen display of the Marlboro brand. The Jacket (R: Time Warner) features Winston, Lucky Strike and Kool, all from British American Tobacco. Viacom’s PG-13 Bad News Bears and The Longest Yard picture Philip Morris’ Marlboro, the brand favored by new, teen smokers. Most U.S. movies rated PG-13 and R feature tobacco images. But most films now avoid showing or mentioning a particular tobacco brand. This makes Bobby all the more exceptional. If nobody smoked in this fictionalized, 1968-era movie pinned to the assassination of Sen. Kennedy, would anyone think the events less authentic? Of course not. So why the Marlboro brand display? Nearly forty years after Sen. Kennedy’s bold leadership helped push tobacco advertising off the air, overseas divisions of tobacco companies, like Philip Morris International, still face no U.S. legal obstacles to putting their product in films. And no U.S. studio or producer risks legal sanctions for taking anything from anyone to push tobacco on screen. Is that why one in six top box office films in 2005 featured tobacco brands, including two Keira Knightley vehicles, Domino and The Jacket, and eleven kid-rated movies like Viacom’s Bad News Bears and The Longest Yard? Sen. Kennedy was a leader in the fight to protect people from the predatory tobacco marketing that kills eight times as many Americans every year as died in the entire Vietnam War. Badging Bobby with Marlboro is a travesty: either corrupt or inept. After all, as the market leader, Marlboro directly and perpetually profits from any tobacco promotion on screen, branded or not. Policy solutions include: 1) Stop showing tobacco brands, ever. 2) Producers of future films with tobacco imagery should publicly certify, in the credits, that nobody connected to the production solicited or accepted a consideration from a tobacco company or its agents. Bobby ’s producers can make a genuine social contribution by certifying no payoffs. Sony and The Weinstein Company should take the lead in stipulating this certification in future distribution agreements. Click here to read Senator Robert Kennedy's address to the First World Conference on Tobacco and Health, New York City, September 12, 1967.
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