Copyright 2002

[ March 26th 2002 ]

Despite a voluntary ban on product placement and payoffs by the tobacco industry, cigarette use in movies is occurring more than ever. A recent statewide project by the American Lung Association of Colorado (ALAC) found a combined 366 smoking incidents in the five films nominated for best picture in 2001. Despite the frequent usage of cigarettes, Gosford Park, A Beautiful Mind and In The Bedroom all contain anti-tobacco messages as well; however, Lord Of The Rings and Moulin Rouge do not.

The study was conducted with the help of Colorado teen-agers in an attempt to increase awareness of tobacco usage in the movies. Out of the 25 films rated, eight films did not contain any smoking, including: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns and Shrek. In this study teens found tobacco use was associated with relieving stress and being attractive and rebellious, instead of being portrayed as being deadly.

Filmmakers say they are trying to reflect real life; however, leading movie stars smoke on screen four times more often than people in real life. "Hollywood has been glamorizing smoking in the movies for decades and still is," said Nandra Kelm, Tobacco Program Coordinator at the ALAC. "Unfortunately, the hazard of tobacco use and second-hand smoke are rarely portrayed on the screen."

According to a recent study conducted at Dartmouth College Medical School, the more smoking teen-agers see in films, the more likely they are to smoke. Seeing movies with excessive amounts of smoking tripled the odds a teen would experiment with smoking.

Some solutions presented by include certification of no payoffs present in the credits of each movie containing cigarette use. Theaters and studios must create strong anti-smoking advertisements to be placed before each movie. Hollywood must stop identifying tobacco brands in movies, which includes billboards and other advertisements in the background.

It also must require any film that shows or implies tobacco to be rated R. "Everything's allowable on screen. There's nothing that's not allowable," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, in the documentary film "Hollywood on Tobacco. We look at violence, sex, we listen to the language and we look at theme, incest or drug use, but smoking is not one of the criteria for the ratings," Valenti said. "Cigarettes are legal, so how could you have it affect the rating of a picture?"

According to the American Lung Association of Colorado:

* If current trends continue, 86,000 Colorado youth who are currently under the age of 18 will die from smoking; * Colorado Hispanic middle and high school students have the highest rate of current tobacco and cigarette use: 17.1 percent for middle school and 38.7 percent for high school; * At least 4.5 million adolescents in the United States smoke cigarettes; * Teens who smoke are three times more likely than nonsmokers to use alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine; * Ninety percent of adult tobacco users report beginning regular use before their high school graduation.

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