Big Tobacco Goes to Hollywood

sfmThe Oscars are on Sunday night, and everyone is seeing all the nominees.  Who will win?  Who will rule the red carpet?  Maybe Big Tobacco will rule the evening as it continues to have a starring role in many movies.

The Surgeon General recently reported, “There is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people…Each time the industry releases another movie that depicts smoking, it does so with the full knowledge of the harm it will bring children who watch it.”  Sixty-one percent of movies nominated in the major Oscar categories featured smoking this year.

This past week was an International Week of Action for Smoke-Free Movies, part of an international movement committed to reducing the devastating impact that tobacco use in movies has on youth.  The Tobacco and Hollywood Campaign provided youth, parents, health professionals, and community members with the tools and resources needed to advocate for the four solutions.

In 2011, New York spent more money subsidizing top-grossing movies with smoking than it did on tobacco control.  Formal paid contracts for product placement fell in the 1990s, thanks to voluntary restriction and the Master Settlement Agreement, but the frequency of smoking in films has increased rapidly after declining for decades.  Did you know:

Between 1999-2008, tobacco was used in 63% of youth-rated (G, PG, PG-13) films. In 2010, a low of 30% of youth-rated films still had tobacco use. 2011 and 2012 showed a rebound to 49% in 2012.

Although tobacco rates have declined, there still is no industry wide policy on rating tobacco use in films. Those major studios with individual published policies have significantly lower tobacco use than those studios who do not.

Smoking in movies is estimated to influence 37% all new teen smokers to start, giving the tobacco industry an estimated 180,000 new customers each year.

The Tobacco and Hollywood Campaign and the national Smoke Free Movies Campaign both endorse:

  • Rating movies that portray smoking “R.”
  • Requiring movies to be certified free of tobacco industry influence.
  • Requiring strong anti-tobacco advertisements before movies with smoking.
  • Stopping the identification of tobacco brands.

In New York State alone, Big Tobacco already spends approximately $1 million a day to market its deadly products.  The more kids see tobacco marketing, the more likely they are to smoke.  Why should movies be another venue for Big Tobacco’s marketing?

As Dr. Stanton Glantz, the Director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, has said, “Movies are movies, they’re not documentaries.  People go to the bathroom several times a day, you don’t see that in the movies.”

We think it’s time Hollywood took accountability for knowingly marketing a harmful product to youth.  Big Tobacco does not deserve an Oscar this year, only the best performances do.