R-Rating For Smoking?

Tobacco use in films jumped last year ending a five year decline

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Movie ratings help people make informed decisions about exposing minors to language, violence, sex and other adult themes. What about smoking?

A recent study found that smoking in movies had been on the decline for the last 5 years, until 2011 when it jumped 7 percent. Researchers found no rules regulating the matter.

"Watch for smoking in movies your kids see."

Stanton, A. Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco, was lead author of this study.

Dr. Glantz said, “The result of the increase in onscreen smoking in youth-rated films will be more kids starting to smoke and developing tobacco-induced disease.”

The study looked at tobacco use or implied tobacco use in 2011 released movies compared to previous years.

All of the movies considered were ranked in the top 10 grossing movies for at least one week.

For the last 5 years, incidence of tobacco use in movies has tapered off, but in 2011 the number of incidences per movie increased by 7 percent compared to 2010.

Not only was there an increase in incidence of tobacco use in R-rated movies, but a 311 percent increase in G- and PG-rated movies and 9 percent increase in PG-13-rated movies.

Results of the study found that in 2011 alone, 134 top-grossing movies showed 1,881 tobacco use incidents.

In 2010, there were 1,819 incidences in 139 movies.

From 2005-2010 three major film companies: Universal, Disney and Time Warner, lowered tobacco use by 90 percent in the films they produced. But in 2011, they too, had an 8 percent increase in tobacco use.

The researchers found that as of summer 2012, no Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film companies have adopted no-tobacco use in film policies.

A large part of the depiction of smoking does happen in period pieces where smoking would have been a part of life; such as, “Hugo”, “The Help” and “Midnight in Paris”.

Dr. Glantz took greater issue with films aimed at the youth market like “Green Hornet” and “Breaking Dawn”.

Dr. Glantz said, “These results underscore a need for an industry-wide policy to keep smoking out of films marketed to youth.”

“An R rating for movies with smoking would give film producers an incentive to keep smoking out of movies aimed at young viewers.”

He noted that exceptions could be made for films showing the dangers or consequences of smoking or real historical figures.

This study was published in September in Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, And Policy.

Funding for this research was provided by the American Legacy Foundation.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 8, 2012
Last Updated:
November 1, 2012