Medics Seek Restrictive Ratings for Smoking Movies
WASHINGTON (Variety) - Bogie should have to put out his stogie.
So say the American Medical Assn. and the U.N.'s World Health Organization, which on Wednesday joined the call for smoking-filled pictures to be labeled with an R rating.
"As countries worldwide grapple with the devastating and increasing impact of tobacco use, the entertainment industry must acknowledge the role it plays in shaping behavior -- particularly for youth who are so susceptible to the onscreen glamorization of smoking," said Chitra Subramaniam, head of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative.
UC San Francisco School of Medicine professor Stanton Glantz, founder of Smoke Free Movies, is waging the campaign endorsed by the AMA and the WHO. Armed with the endorsement of those two groups, Glantz is likely to make plenty of noise in the days ahead. His project is asking the movie biz to do the following:
Encourage the Motion Picture Assn. of America to issue an R rating to films that show smoking but don't reflect the dangers and consequences;
Eliminate all tobacco brand images, even those in background shots;
= Show anti-tobacco PSAs before any film that makes even the slightest reference to tobacco;
= Roll onscreen credits in films with smoking certifying that nobody on a production accepted anything of value from any tobacco company or its agents.
For much of this year, Glantz has been taking ads and making the rounds in Hollywood. One sympathizer has been anti-smoking advocate Rob Reiner (news) of Castle Rock, who has pledged to make his movies smoke-free. Two years ago, Reiner backed a ballot measure to increase tobacco taxes to fund children's programs; California voters narrowly approved it.
The MPAA, however, is unlikely to comply with the request and begin applying the "R" rating to movies with smoking.
MPAA president-CEO Jack Valenti has long argued against eroding the ratings system by expanding the parameters to include new behaviors.
Glantz says his group is not asking Hollywood to alter content. Rather, he says he wants to make sure moviegoers are at least educated about the dangers.
The professor said smoking in movies is on the rise, despite the tobacco industry's voluntary ban on paid product placements in movies. According to a study by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, tobacco's screen time in PG-13 movies climbed 50% in 1999-2000 over 1996-1997.
The study also concluded that two out of three tobacco scenes in the 50 top-grossing movies released from April 2000 to March 2001 were in movies rated G, PG and PG-13. Cigarette brand logos were shown in one-third of PG-13 movies.
AMA trustee Dr. Ronald David said moviegoers are indeed influenced when they see characters on the silver screen smoking.
"It serves only to reinforce smoking as a desirable behavior, and encourages young people to experiment with tobacco products and become addicted," David said in a statement released by Smoke Free Movies.
The WHO also announced Wednesday that next year's World No-Tobacco Day will zero in on smoking in the movies.
"Hollywood's global reach is only part of the picture," Subramaniam said. "The world's largest film industry -- India's Bollywood -- must also take responsibility for promoting a product that kills one in two regular users."