Studios and tobacco brands

Smoking on screen causes young people to smoke whether the film displays a specific tobacco brand or not. For decades, however, tobacco companies have spent millions to associate their trademarks with Hollywood films and stars through cross-promotion campaigns and product placement.

Brand display persists today despite a 1998 legal agreement that bars US tobacco companies from paying to place their brands in entertainment accessible to kids. Multinational media companies and tobacco firms marketing US brands in other countries are not bound by the agreement.

  • Since 2002, nearly 40 percent of top-grossing films displaying actual tobacco brands were youth-rated (G/PG/PG-13) in the US. Films with brands R-rated in the US are often youth-rated in other nations.
  • Time Warner, Sony and Viacom (Paramount) lead the MPAA-member companies in tobacco brand display. At each company, 10 percent of youth-rated films with smoking and about 20 percent of R-rated films with smoking display tobacco brands.
  • Top-grossing films from smaller, independent film companies are somewhat less likely to show tobacco brands than the major studios. But, as a group, indies accounted for 29 percent of all top-grossing films featuring tobacco brands — more than any MPAA-member company, including Time Warner (20%).
  • Of the brands shown being smoked by actors, 99 percent are posed with the film's star or co-stars. Uncredited background actors (extras) smoke in films, but they don't pose with the tobacco brands.
  • After recent mergers and brand shuffles, 94 percent of brands seen on screen belong to three tobacco companies: Altria (41%), British American Tobacco (32%) and Imperial Tobacco (20%).*
  • Six brands make up 72 percent of all brand appearances: Altria's Marlboro (36%); British American's Camel (12%), Newport (7%) and Lucky Strike (4%); and Imperial's Kool (7%) and Winston (6%).
  • Cigarette brands are most frequently shown (92%), followed by cigar brands (5%), smokeless brands (2%) and e-cigarettes (1%).

* Japan Tobacco markets American Spirit, Camel, Winston and other BAT brands outside the US, arguably giving it a heavier international screen presence than Imperial Tobacco.
 
Films with tobacco brands|Number of movies with brands
Films with tobacco brands|% youth-rated G, PG or PG-13
Film data driven by Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, a project of Breathe California