With the start of the summer blockbuster season right around the corner, it’s time to put the spotlight on an important yet overlooked fact: smoking is glamorized in movies to appeal to youth. Big Tobacco has a long history of leveraging movies to promote smoking and tobacco brands—using tactics such as product placement and celebrity endorsements. With tobacco use still the number one cause of preventable death nationwide, it’s imperative to act now to curb youth exposure to on-screen smoking.
Here are three reasons why all movies featuring smoking imagery should be rated R:
1) Youth are strongly influenced by movies Movies have and continue to be a major recruiter of young new smokers across the country. In fact, the more smoking that young people see in movies, the more likely they are to start smoking—exposure to on-screen smoking accounts for 37% of all under 18 smokers in the US. Furthermore, seeing smoking in movies shifts the attitudes of young people in a pro-smoking direction and stimulates the urge to smoke.
2) Despite strides forward, smoking in movies prevailsIn 1998, tobacco product placement in media accessible to youth was banned, and in 2015, Disney committed to making all of its films rated PG-13 and under smoke free. However, there was an alarming increase in smoking in 2018 Oscar-nominated movies—86% in major categories featured smoking, a 60% increase from 2014, with the number of kid-rated films featuring smoking doubling over the previous year. We’ve achieved many successes in our fight for smoke-free movies, but there’s still more work to be done.
3) R-rated movies with smoking offers a life-saving solutionR-rated movies that feature tobacco use serves a dual purpose: it limits youth exposure to smoking imagery and offers a powerful incentive for producers to exclude tobacco use from their movies. In addition to cutting youth exposure to on-screen smoking in half, R-rated movies with tobacco use would reduce US youth smoking rate by 18% and prevent one million tobacco deaths among today’s children. As we advocate for all youth-rated movies to be smoke-free, it’s important for parents to understand the deadly impact that tobacco use in movies can have on their children. Ensuring that all movies featuring smoking receive an R Rating offers a viable solution to address persisting on-screen tobacco use and prevent our impressionable youth from a lifetime of addiction.