HCN News & Notes

Health Groups Demand R Ratings for Movies That Depict Smoking

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. — A coalition influential health organizations, responding to a July 7 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have demanded that movie producers, distributors, and exhibitors apply an R rating to all films that include depictions of smoking or tobacco.

Seventeen public-health and medical groups signed a letter to film industry leaders in response to the CDC report, which showed that progress in reducing tobacco imagery in PG-13 movies stalled after 2010. The letter demands that the film industry meet a June 1, 2018 deadline to end its practice of using tobacco depictions in youth-rated movies that research has shown has a direct impact on children who go on to smoke.

The letter was signed by the largest-ever coalition of health leaders to unite behind this issue, including medical organizations that represent more than 630,000 doctors — the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Medical Assoc.

Signers also include the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Assoc., the American Lung Assoc., the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Public Health Assoc., the Assoc. of State and Territorial Health Officials, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Breathe California Sacramento Region, the Los Angeles County Health Agency, Smokefree Movies, Trinity Health, and Truth Initiative.

“As physicians and advocates, we are speaking with a unified voice: filmmakers must stop enabling the tobacco industry to target our children,” said Dr. Fernando Stein, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The evidence is clear that, when children see movie characters smoking, they are more likely to smoke. Ninety percent of smokers start smoking in their teen years, and many of them will battle a tobacco addiction that will eventually kill them. By rating movies appropriately, filmmakers can help protect the next generation from tobacco-related disease and death.”

The CDC has projected that exposure to on-screen smoking will recruit more than 6 million U.S. children to smoke, of whom 2 million will die prematurely from tobacco-induced cancer, heart disease, lung disease, or stroke. By voluntarily implementing policies that require R ratings for smoking, the film industry can avert 1 million tobacco deaths among today’s children, according to estimates from the CDC.

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