Study: Movies Still Glorify Smoking
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Smoking remains prevalent in movies even though tobacco companies agreed to stop paying filmmakers to feature their brands more than a decade ago, according to a new study.
Tobacco use was depicted in nearly 85 percent of the top 25 highest-grossing movies released each year from 1988 and 1997, Dartmouth Medical School researchers said Tuesday.
``I think we show that the ban had no impact on what is essentially cigarette advertising in the movies,'' said study co-author Madeline Dalton, a professor of nutrition and public health at the college.
In 1989, tobacco companies voluntarily agreed to halt movie product-placement after Congress questioned whether the practice violated advertising regulations.
Evidence had surfaced that Philip Morris paid to promote tobacco products in ``Superman II'' and the James Bond movie ``License to Kill,'' which later agreed to post a tobacco warning in its credits.
Tobacco use was featured in about 92 percent of the top-25 films released in 1988, the year before the ban, Dr. Jim Sargent, lead author of the study, said Tuesday.
The percentage plunged to 80 percent in 1989 but skyrocketed to 96 percent in 1990, he said.
Despite dips to 80 percent in 1991 and 1995, smoking has otherwise wavered between 88 percent and 92 percent in the top 25 movies each year, he said.
The Dartmouth review of a 10-year span of films does not supply evidence that tobacco companies are continuing product placement, Dalton said.
More likely, Dalton said, smoking in films remains prevalent because ``it's an easy way for a director or actor to make a quick statement about a character.''
``The smoking stereotype can be a shorthand for a sexy woman, a rebellious woman or a tough guy,'' Dalton said. ``But filmmakers are just perpetuating that stereotype and need to know that kids are watching and modeling their behavior on what they see.''
Consider Julia Roberts, who displays anxiety in 1997's ``My Best Friend's Wedding'' by hastily puffing a cigarette before the ceremony.
Bruce Willis conveys callous rage when he kills a thug for knocking a cigarette out of his mouth in the 1991 detective thriller ``The Last Boy Scout''
Sometimes tobacco is even used to generate laughs. In the 1997 extraterrestrial comedy ``Men in Black,'' alien visitors return to their home planet after buying a carton of smokes.
Of the 250 movies studied, the Dartmouth researchers determined that 217 featured tobacco use and 180 featured a real brand.
The findings are slightly higher than but generally consistent with the American Lung Association's independent studies, spokeswoman Harriet Charney said.
The anti-smoking agency has found that tobacco is featured in about 78 percent of movies over the past decade.
Charney said even a movie like the 1991 thriller ``Dead Again,'' which features Andy Garcia as a debilitated smoker who puffs cigarettes through a hole in his throat, may not effectively show the consequences of tobacco use.
``Young people don't have a good sense of themselves growing old, so showing the results of smoking tends not to be very effective,'' she said. ``We support filmmakers placing an anti-smoking message at the front of their movies if they feature tobacco.''
Entertainment industry leaders maintain that filmmakers only include cigarettes in movies for creative purposes.
``A lot of the context of these movies shows that smoking is dangerous or hurtful,'' said Larry Deutchman, senior vice president of the Entertainment Industries Council, a Burbank-based group founded by film and television companies to monitor social issues.
``However, people do smoke and therefore characters smoke,'' he said.