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  • Melissa Potter

International Week of Action: Celebrating Smoke-Free Movies, while Smoking Explodes at the Oscars

Smoke Free Movie

While there are several factors that contribute to youth smoking, exposure to smoking in movies is a powerful pro-tobacco influence on youth today, accounting for the recruitment of half of all new adolescent smokers. The tobacco industry uses tobacco imagery and brand identification on screen to both normalize and glamorize tobacco use. With teens consuming more media than ever, the media viewed is often unregulated, giving the tobacco industry direct access to teens’ daily lives.

For more than 10 years, Reality Check has been working to get Hollywood to eliminate smoking in youth- rated movies by using an “R” rating. In celebration of International Week of Action, Reality Check of Chenango County partnered with Colonia Theater to bring the community a free showing of a tobacco-free movie featuring SING! Over 100 community members, families, and children came out Saturday, February 24th for a free family friendly movie. Reality Check youth hosted a free raffle, selfie station and collected signatures of support for reducing tobacco marketing in stores.

To raise awareness of tobacco marketing and imagery in movies, this year’s International Week of Action takes aim at the Oscars. From February 25 – March 4, 2018, we are asking you to

  • Reach out to your friends and your community, in person and on social media, using the #HelpOscarQuit hashtag.

  • Visit nearby movie retailers — theater managers, big-box stores, even your local cable service — and make clear how much your community cares about smoking on screen.

  • Write a serious protest letter to a major media CEO (here's a list) and put it in the mail. These actually get read!

Studios spend millions to showcase their films and boost ticket sales. The more smoking in Oscar-listed films, the more harm they do worldwide. 86 percent of this year's films listed in major categories feature smoking, up from 60 percent four years ago. Youth rated films on the Oscar list feature twice as much smoking as in 2017 and they've already delivered 2.5 times more tobacco impressions to theater audiences.

Youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke; those who get the most exposure to on-screen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure. Actions that would eliminate the depiction of tobacco use in movies could have a significant effect on preventing youth from becoming tobacco users. PG-13 movies are the biggest concern since they account for a majority of on-screen smoking.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has so far been unwilling to change its rating system to trigger an “R” rating when smoking imagery is part of a film. All of the leading movie studios, Sony, Disney, Time Warner, Comcast, News Corporation (Fox), and Viacom, as well as some independent studios, have voluntarily adopted smoke free movie policies for youth-rated movies, but have often failed to abide by their own policies.

Knowing that tobacco imagery in youth-rated movies is a cause of youth smoking, it is time to take action. The average age of a new smoker is 13 years old in New York State. Movies with smoking will cause 6.4 million of today’s children and teens to become smokers. The only way to protect youth from tobacco imagery in movies is to rate movies with tobacco “R.”

For more information about the harmful effects of tobacco marketing in movies, visit TFreeZone.Net or contact Reality Check Coordinator Melissa Potter 607-756-3416; or Community Engagement Coordinator Jennifer Hamilton 607-758-5501;

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