FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Tobacco and Hollywood

by RALPH NADER

 

Among the greatest unsung public health advances of recent times is progress made against the global cigarette industry.

In the United States, cigarette smoking is finally on the decline. The courts have ruled the tobacco industry to be “racketeers.” Smokefree spaces, including not just workplaces but restaurants and bars, are proliferating, reducing the harms of second-hand smoke and encouraging millions to quit. States are raising cigarette taxes, reducing smoking and raising funds for important public health programs.

Internationally, progress is speeding even faster. A global treaty, the
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, is encouraging countries to adopt far-reaching anti-smoking measures, including bans on all cigarette advertisements. Countries are emulating and surpassing the smokefree initiatives in the United States — even Irish pubs are now smokefree!

But despite all the public health gains, Big Tobacco is still on the move, addicting millions more smokers. And the industry has some unfortunate allies.

One important cultural ally of Big Tobacco is Hollywood. Smoking in youth-rated movies in on the rise, and it has demonstrable effects on smoking rates.

According to researchers at the University of California San Francisco
Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, smoking appears even more in Hollywood movies released with G/PG/PG-13 than in R-rated films. Altogether, 75 percent of all U.S. releases have smoking scenes.
One cartoon film now on DVD, The Ant Bully, includes 41 tobacco scenes.

Researchers have found that viewing smoking in movies makes it far more likely that children will take up the habit — controlling for all other relevant factors (such as whether parents and peers smoke).

Think about it–the movies are glamorous, and they portray smoking as glamorous, whether or not it is a good guy or bad guy lighting a cigarette.

The public health advances against Big Tobacco are due in significant part to effective efforts to vilify the industry. When children especially appreciate how the companies are manipulating them, they resist. Hollywood’s glorification of smoking works directly against this.

U.S. films bring in 30 percent of movie box office sales globally, and
Hollywood’s contribution to smoking is significant overseas, where the tobacco epidemic is worst. Ten million people are expected to die every year from smoking-related disease by 2025, 70 percent of them in developing countries. Hollywood movies have gigantic appeal overseas, often with even greater cultural influence than in the United States.
They appeal exactly to the demographic most likely to take up smoking –
urbanized, middle-class youth who aspire to Western lifestyles.

This is an easy problem to cure. Leading U.S. health groups and the
United Nation’s World Health Organization have urged Hollywood to adopt
R-ratings for movies with tobacco scenes (with exceptions where the presentation of tobacco clearly and unambiguously reflects the dangers and consequences of tobacco use or is necessary to represent the smoking of a real historical figure), to air anti-tobacco spots before films with tobacco imagery, to certify that movies with tobacco received no tobacco industry pay-offs, and to stop identifying tobacco brands in movies. None of these measures involves any “censorship.”

The industry has resisted.

This week, leading up to the 79th Annual Academy Awards, public health groups and agencies from New York and Los Angeles, from Liverpool and
Sydney have mobilized to demand that Hollywood end its complicity with Big Tobacco.

In Washington, DC, representatives of the Smokefree Movies Action
Network, dressed in biohazard suits, called on the Motion Picture Association of America to remove “toxic” tobacco content from youth rated films. They presented the MPAA with a “golden coffin.”

The trade association’s representatives declined to accept the award.

The celebration of film at the Oscars reminds us of Hollywood’s reach. That’s exactly why it is so important to get smoking out of kid-rated films.

For more information about tobacco in Hollywood, the evidence of harm, and the widely endorsed policy solutions, visit
www.smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu.

RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail