Reality Check, the youth action program of Advancing Tobacco Free Communities, is advocating to reduce smoking and tobacco imagery in movies. 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 children and youth see most. The tobacco industry has a long history of using product placement and celebrity endorsements in movies to promote smoking and tobacco brands and recruit youth to become new users.

Recently the Reality Check program in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties hosted a family movie event at the Fusion Community Church in Cobleskill. In addition to providing a movie and refreshments, Reality Check educated moviegoers that smoking in movies kills in real life. Youth and adults also had the opportunity to sign postcards indicating their support of giving an “R” rating to all movies that contain tobacco use. Reality Check will forward the cards to the Motion Picture Association of America.

In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that smoking in movies causes youth to smoke. 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. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that exposure to on-screen smoking will recruit 6.4 million youth to become smokers.

Seventy-eight percent of 2019 Oscar nominated films featured 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.

Dr. Stan Glantz, a professor and director of the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, asserts, “There’s no excuse for continuing to have smoking in movies that are rated to be sold to kids. Keeping smoking onscreen is like putting arsenic in the popcorn.”

Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death in New York State, the United States and the world.