Letter to the Editor

In Your Opinion – Smoking doesn’t belong in movies rated for kids

February 21, 2019 – The Daily Star – Oneonta, NY

The upcoming Academy Awards program will recognize achievements in film by awarding Oscars. One achievement will not be formally acknowledged on the broadcast, but has been a winner for Big Tobacco for decades: movies have promoted smoking and tobacco brands through product placement and celebrity endorsements.

The tobacco industry has spent millions of dollars to promote its addictive products in movies. Onscreen smoking will successfully recruit six million real-life smokers from this generation of youth of whom two million will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases.

Seventy-eight percent of 2019 Oscar nominated films feature tobacco imagery. Youth-rated films nominated for 2019 Oscars delivered more than twice as many tobacco impressions to U.S. audiences as 2018 films. During 2014-2018, youth-rated Oscar-nominated films were more likely to show any smoking than all youth-rated films: 57 percent of Oscar-listed films featured smoking versus 34 percent of all youth-rated films.

Reality Check, the youth action program of Advancing Tobacco Free Communities in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties, knows that smoking in movies kills in real life. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that smoking in movies causes youth to smoke. The more frequently youth observe smoking on screen, the more likely they are to start smoking. Youth who are heavily exposed to onscreen smoking imagery are two to three times more likely to begin smoking than are youth who are less exposed.

There is a nationwide movement to urge the U.S. film industry to rate new movies with smoking “R” to keep smoking out of movies that kids see most. Individuals may contact the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) about tobacco imagery by writing to 1301 K St., NW Suite 900E, Washington, DC 20005, emailing contactus@MPAA.org or tweeting #RateSmokingR@MPAA. An online petition about making youth-rated movies smoke-free is available at https://www.change.org/search

Bonnie S. Peck


Peck is Reality check/Youth Engagement Coordinator with Advancing Tobacco Free Communities of Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties.