06:39pm Wednesday 20 September 2017

Hollywood and Tobacco: New Spotlight on Smoking At The Movies

UC San Francisco is launching a revamped Smokefree Movies website that offers the public unusual insight into Hollywood’s role in the global tobacco epidemic, projected to kill one billion people this century.

Updated every week, the site ranks film producers, directors, writers and actors by their on-screen tobacco footprint based on a database of more than 2,000 films released since 2002.

The site currently lists the five “smokiest” actors, directors, and producers since 2002 as:

Additionally, the website’s “Now Showing” feature reveals the tobacco content of the top ten movies in theaters and on DVD each week. It also provides information about film companies. For example in the last three years, Time Warner accounted for 22% of all the tobacco impressions in top grossing films. That was the same amount for independent producer-distributors (22%), followed by Sony (17%), Fox (14%), Viacom (Paramount) (11%), Comcast (Universal) (8%), and Disney (6%).</p> <p>Smoking in movies, encouraged for decades by tobacco company cross-promotions and product placements, leads to thousands of new young smokers every year, according to federal health officials.

“The major media companies and the Hollywood studios they own have known since at least 2002 that smoking in movies causes kids to smoke and eventually die from a long list of tobacco diseases,” says Stanton Glantz, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, which created the movie website. “By looking at top-grossing movies and putting all the key health information in one place, the website gives everyone from parents and public officials to film critics and Wall Street analysts an inside look at the tobacco choices Hollywood producers are making now.”

The website:

  • Traces the history of commercial collaboration by U.S. tobacco and film industries;
  • Summarizes scientific research in a dozen countries supporting the U.S. Surgeon General’s conclusion that exposure to on-screen smoking causes kids to smoke;
  • Offers evidence-based policy solutions based by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other leading health authorities;
  • Monitors in real time the progress or failure of specific media companies and their movie studio subsidiaries to safeguard young audiences worldwide by reserving smoking for their R-rated films.

U.S public health officials for years have warned that exposure to on-screen smoking causes young people to start smoking. The CDC has decried the movie industry’s failure to protect impressionable young viewers, and in 2012 the Surgeon General reported that because of the onscreen exposure, “6.4 million children alive today will become smokers, and 2 million of these children will die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking.”

A significant number of the movies depicting smoking were rated PG-13, the Surgeon General reported.

“The CDC reports that R-ratings on movies with smoking can prevent a million future tobacco deaths among American kids alone,” Glantz says. “The media company chiefs could easily direct their trade group, the Motion Picture Association of America, to add smoking to the voluntary R-rating standard, alongside the non-lethal content it already rates R. The longer they delay, the more kids worldwide will be addicted to cigarettes by the smoking in the movies Hollywood makes and exports.”

The Smokefree Movies website uses data collected by UCSF partner Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, an ongoing project of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails. Since 1995, more than a thousand volunteers between the ages of 14 and 22 have been trained to analyze tobacco content in all films grossing more than $1 million in the domestic market.  

Historical resources for the Smokefree Movies website include the 82 million-page Legacy Tobacco Documents Library housed at UCSF. Other information is gathered from film industry sources. UCSF’s Smoke Free Movies receives foundation support for its policy research and education projects.

UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.


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