Reform State Film Subsidies

Who is bankrolling all those kid-rated movies with smoking? It turns out that almost every taxpayer in America, Canada, the UK and Europe help finance US film productions with smoking.

In a special report released in November 2009, UCSF researchers documented $1.4 billion in state taxpayer subsidies for film producers, including $500 million for PG-13 movies with smoking and $330 million for R-rated smoking films.

These taxpayer-subsidized movies help deliver thousands of kids to Big Tobacco every year, many of whom will die early as a result. (Health impacts by state.)

How to stop subsidizing kids’ films with smoking

Together, taxpayers in 41 states (see map) are underwriting nearly 25 percent of Hollywood’s domestic production costs. The report proposes two changes:

• Make future kid-rated film projects with smoking ineligible for public subsidies. The only exceptions would be those included in the R-rating policy.

• Require applicants for public film subsidies to file a legally-binding declaration that nobody associated with the production has made a tobacco deal.

Ideas for action

State chapters of parent-teacher groups, health organizations and medical associations are perfectly positioned to reform these state film subsidy programs.

Among the suggestions outlined in this Action Memo are:

• Identify the state officials responsible for administering film incentives. Begin by searching the web for “[name of state] film incentives.”

• Often these film subsidy programs are controversial because they do not actually produce a net revenue gain for the state. Identify the groups and legislators engaged on both sides.

• Many states are reconsidering these programs in the face of severe deficits. Find out if your state has put its program on the policy agenda. There may be a ready-made opening to bring up the collateral damage from funding kid-rated films with smoking.

• Write letters to the editor and op-ed articles spotlighting these subsidies and linking them to the policy debates over health costs, youth smoking, and cuts in tobacco prevention programs.

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