Smoking still too common in movies, CDC says

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 19, 2010 2:40pm EDT


Miami swimwear

Backstage at Mercedes Benz Swim Fashion Week in Miami.  Slideshow 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of U.S. movies showing people smoking has declined since 2005, but cigarettes still feature in far too many films and could be influencing young people to take up the habit, according to a report released on Thursday.

The report's authors recommended that movie ratings also consider whether the film depicts smoking and suggested strong advertisements about the dangers of smoking precede movies that show tobacco use.

"The results of this analysis indicate that the number of tobacco incidents peaked in 2005, then declined by approximately half through 2009, representing the first time a decline of that duration and magnitude has been observed," the team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of California San Francisco and elsewhere wrote.

"However, nearly half of popular movies still contained tobacco imagery in 2009, including 54 percent of those rated PG-13, and the number of incidents remained higher in 2009 than in 1998," they added in the CDC's weekly report on death and illness.

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Edward Markey and Republican Joseph Pitts, who both serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote the Motion Picture Association of America encouraging the industry to adopt stronger anti-smoking measures.

"Exposure to onscreen smoking in movies increases the probability that youths will start smoking. Youths who are heavily exposed to onscreen smoking are approximately two to three times more likely to begin smoking than youths who are lightly exposed," the CDC report reads.

The researchers counted each time tobacco use was shown in the biggest-grossing films of 1991 to 2009.

"This analysis shows that the number of tobacco incidents increased steadily after the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the state attorneys general and the major cigarette companies, in which the companies agreed to end brand placement," they wrote.

They said the Motion Picture Association of America had done little to make changes but noted some studios had made voluntary changes and said Viacom was the first company whose movies rated for youth showed no use of tobacco in 2009.

They suggested more policies could encourage filmmakers to do better.

"Such policies could include having a mature content (R) rating for movies with smoking, requiring strong antitobacco ads preceding movies that depict smoking, not allowing tobacco brand displays in movies, and requiring producers of movies depicting tobacco use to certify that no person or company associated with the production received any consideration for that depiction," they wrote.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Mohammad Zargham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (8)
mkowa wrote:
…Drug usage, violence, killing, sex and extreme langauge is okay though! You just can’t smoke because youth will see it. I got a hint for you…youth is already doing ALL of the above! Stupid PC arguements! Started with the Clintons “it’s for the children” BS! Now Chavez is trying to mute news pictures of violence because “it’s for the children!’

Aug 19, 2010 3:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
rgw wrote:
Have to agree..smoking is MINOR compared to all the other BS in movies…and I like a good action..mystery..but give me a break…

Aug 19, 2010 4:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
toddah wrote:
So will this mean if the idiots get their way all films that had been g rated will no longer have a g rating ,Walt disney may have some issues if they have to edit out Cruella Devil holding that smoke to change the rating would be stupid and to edit it it would take away from the ART . This is the USA and we have the freedom of speech . the Ratings systems in the US is a good thing for stupid confused people who let TV’s raise there children . midnight cowboy was once rated x now seen on T V , times have changed .This all stinks of some creepy shakedown to gouge artists.And it is silly that money was spent on this research . Pathetic at best .

Aug 19, 2010 5:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.