How many children will be exposed to smoking in G, PG and PG-13 movies this summer — and start smoking because of it? Which studios will produce the most youth-rated films with tobacco imagery?
These are questions that will be answered by a campaign this summer from the American Medical Association (AMA) Alliance, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and the California Youth Advocacy Network. Their Movie Smoking Scorecard campaign, announced today, will include:
-- Mobile billboards that will drive around Los Angeles -- and the major studios -- today and tomorrow. The billboard shows a young girl asking, "Which movie studios will cause me to smoke this summer?" and promotes the campaign's Facebook page. -- A scorecard that regularly tallies the number of tobacco impressions in this summer's youth-rated blockbusters. -- Facebook pages that host the scorecard, a petition, Twitter feed and videos of youth commenting on smoking they have personally seen in movies this summer. -- A letter-writing and petition drive across the country during the blockbuster season. -- A strategically placed billboard located near -- and naming -- the studio with the worst summer record at the end of September.
The blockbuster season’s first example of smoking in a youth-rated film is 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” a PG-13 film that has grossed more than $163 million in the U.S. (as of May 24) and has numerous scenes of the main star, actor Hugh Jackman, with a cigar. Another PG-13 blockbuster, “Angels & Demons” by Sony Pictures, includes tobacco imagery and has grossed nearly $82 million in the U.S. as of May 24.
The latest research shows that PG-13 films account for two out of every three tobacco impressions delivered to audiences of all ages. Other studies have shown that one-third to one half of all new smoking by teens can be attributed to smoking in movies — and that exposure to tobacco imagery predicts established smoking behavior in adolescents. In August 2008, the National Cancer Institute released a monograph that concluded that movies with smoking cause children to smoke.
“The story of children exposed to tobacco images in film has an all too predictable ending: many of them begin smoking,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director and Health Officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Health professionals, parents and even youth themselves recognize this fact, yet studios continue to produce — and market to children — movies that promote tobacco. It’s time that movie studios stop ignoring the science and start listening to the very people who want to see their movies — without smoking.”
One such person is 16-year-old Elizabeth Nguyen from Orange County. After seeing “Wolverine,” she posted a video on the campaign’s Facebook page that tells the story of a boy at the theater who was imitating the character Wolverine by “fake smoking a cigar.” Nguyen goes on to say, “It just goes to show, what we see on the big screen, we remember. So please, stop falsely advertising smoking as the cool thing to do. It will just make your movies even better.”
“It’s incomprehensible for studios to defend their promotion of tobacco products in youth-rated films when you hear from teenagers directly that they are taking notice — and offense — to this onscreen promotion,” said Sandi Frost, President of the AMA Alliance, the 27,000-member volunteer arm of the AMA that, in 2006, launched its Screen Out! campaign to reduce promotion of tobacco in youth-rated films in light of growing evidence of the harm it has on youth.
One of their proposed solutions, also advocated in this current campaign, is for the Motion Picture Association of America to given an R rating to any film with irresponsible or gratuitous tobacco images. Two years ago, the MPAA agreed to factor tobacco imagery into their ratings, but health groups have seen no consistent or effective change.
All summer, youth can upload their videos to the campaign’s Facebook page (keywords: Movie Smoking Scorecard) to voice their opinion to the studios (Paramount, Disney Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros.). Visitors can also sign a petition, read the Twitter feed and check out the latest scorecard, which tallies the number of tobacco impressions in youth-rated films.
“Young people see more movies more often than any other age group,” explains Karen Strach, Youth Coordinator for the California Youth Advocacy Network. “It is irresponsible for Hollywood to be featuring tobacco use in films geared towards youth, which is why this summer teens across the country will be encouraging the movie studios to eliminate tobacco use from movies rated G, PG, and PG-13.”
For more information on the campaign or the ongoing scorecard of studios, enter keywords Movie Smoking Scorecard on Facebook, or click on: www.MovieSmokingScorecard.com.
About the AMA Alliance
The AMA Alliance, the volunteer arm of the American Medical Association, is committed to public health promotion in their organizational mission. A not-for-profit organization of more than 26,000 grassroots members working in their communities, the AMA Alliance strives to ensure child safety, prevent abuse and violence, promote healthy lifestyles and increase awareness of available health care resources. www.screenout.org
About the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit: http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov
About California Youth Advocacy Network (CYAN)
CYAN is dedicated to supporting youth and young adults by advocating for a tobacco-free California. We provide tobacco control professionals and young people with the tangible tools for action to mobilize a powerful statewide movement. Our staff is committed to changing the tobacco use culture in California’s high schools, colleges and universities, military bases, and all levels of the young adult community. http://www.cyanonline.org/
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