Ad 8

The New York Times, Variety
Date of first publication: 
Hollywood movies push kids to smoke. What are directors thinking?
Hollywood movies push kids to smoke. What are the directors thinking? When legal limits on youth tobacco promotions tightened in other media and theaters began enforcing R ratings more strictly, the share of tobacco incidents in movies rated G, PG, and PG13 jumped 300%. Coincidence? While R-rated 2002 OscarĀ® contender In the Bedroom flashes Marlboros at older teens and adults, most tobacco shots in recent top-grossing movies are actually in films rated G, PG or PG13. Parents now have no way to know if a movie or video promotes a powerful addiction that captures most of its victims by age 18-and kills a third of them in adulthood. Here's the connection. Big Tobacco kills more Americans than murder, suicide, illegal drugs, drunk driving and AIDS combined. Yet studies controlling for all other factors, like parents and friends who smoke, find that non-smoking teens exposed to frequent smoking on screen are two-and-a-half times more likely to start smoking themselves. Good guy or bad guy doesn't matter. It's the smoking on screen that counts. Behavior modeling and status-seeking are key to tobacco industry marketing efforts. Tobacco ads are banned on TV, and poster and magazine tobacco promotion to youth is now restricted. That means Hollywood movies are one of the last major channels for promoting tobacco to young people in the U.S. and overseas. Big Tobacco publicly promised to halt cash payoffs to Hollywood in 1989. But smoking on screen has skyrocketed over the past decade. Directors portrayed tobacco in almost 80% of the top 50 films last year. Is this corruption or stupidity? In recent news stories, directors and studio bosses have blamed it all on spoiled stars. But nothing gets on screen in Hollywood unless the director decides to put it there. Example? Russell Crowe didn't smoke in Gladiator. If he lights up in other films, it's only because the film's director invites him to smoke. What excuse can there be to place a deadly, addictive product in kid-rated movies? In terms of public health, there is no excuse. Smoking and secondhand smoke kill 480,000 Americans each year, 4 million people globally. And since smoking doesn't sell movie tickets (unlike violence or sex), there's no box office rationale either. Yet Hollywood's political lobby, the MPAA, flatly refuses to warn parents that a movie or video pushes a lethal-and highly profitable-addiction. Censorship is not the answer. If top directors sincerely think their projects are "compromised" unless they shill for Big Tobacco (which spends as much on marketing alone as Hollywood grosses in total each year), that's show business. But let's give children and teens a chance by exercising common sense: ROLL ON-SCREEN CREDITS certifying that nobody on a production accepted anything of value from any tobacco company, its agents or fronts. It's time to restore public trust. RUN STRONG ANTI-TOBACCO ADS IN FRONT OF SMOKING MOVIES. Put them on tapes and DVDs, too. Strong spots are proven to immunize audiences of all ages. QUIT IDENTIFYING TOBACCO BRANDS in the background or in action. Brand names are totally unnecessary. RATE EVERY SMOKING MOVIE "R." That will give parents the power to protect their children from the tobacco industry. DID YOU KNOW? Two out of three tobacco shots in the Top 50 movies from April 2000-March 2001 were in G, PG and PG13 films. A sample now on video: Shots/hr* Film Rating Director Box-office Gross 33 The Perfect Storm PG13 Wolfgang Petersen $ 182 million 25 What Women Want PG13 Nancy Meyers $ 182 million 23 Charlie's Angels PG13 Joseph McGinty Nichols $ 125 million 19 The Family Man PG13 Brett Ratner $ 76 million 19 X-Men PG13 Brian Singer $ 157 million 14 Vertical Limit PG13 Martin Campbell $ 68 million 13 102 Dalmatians G Kevin Lima $ 67 million 12 Save the Last Dance PG13 Thomas Carter II $ 89 million 11 Road to El Dorado PG Bibo Bergeron et al. $ 51 million 10 Shanghai Noon PG13 Tom Dey $ 57 million 8 U-571 PG13 Jonathan Mostow $ 77 million 8 Gone in 60 Seconds PG13 Dominic Sena $ 102 million 6 Cast Away PG Robert Zemeckis $ 232 million 6 Meet the Parents PG13 Jay Roach $ 166 million 4 Finding Forrester PG13 Gus Van Sant $ 52 million *Shots including tobacco product, use or reference / total running time. Full list on web site.
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