Monday, March 30, 2009

Staring Down the Barrel of a Smoking Gun

Over the last week or so I have been working on the mother of all blog posts (from my trip to D.C.). The post is getting so long (I'm still working on it) that I decided to copy this section out and make it a separate post. So here we go!....I attended a Screen Out workshop. The AMAA is part of an important coalition (which among others includes the American Heart Association & American Medical Association) demanding that the movie industry act responsibly with its influence regarding smoking and its effect on children. Hollywood is being asked to refrain from including smoking in movies unless they have an R rating (with the exception of necessity in accurately representing a real historical person, or if the movie clearly demonstrates the dangers and consequences that arise from that smoking). Existing movies wouldn't be required to adjust their rating. We're not asking for censorship, simply that movies be rated responsibly. Guidelines are already in place regarding language, violence, and sex - why should there not be guidelines regarding smoking in movies?...particularly now that studies have scientifically proven the affect on children who watch smoking in movies is even greater than that of any other form of tobacco promotion or advertising - including whether a child has friends or parents that smoke. This is not a moral issue, it's a public health issue and here are some of the facts:
  • Researchers estimate that smoking in movies influences 390,000 teens to start smoking each year, of whom 120,000 will die from tobacco addiction.
  • The U.S. CDC lists smoking in movies as the primary reason why the decline in teen smoking has stalled in recent years.
  • Tobacco is featured in 3/4 of all PG13 movies (those teens are very likely to be watching) well as more than 1/3 of G & PG movies!
  • Exposure to on screen smoking starts 1/2 of all teen smoking. Big Tobacco needs these new smokers in order to replace the 438,000 adults killed by tobacco annually.
  • It is statistically very likely that if a child doesn't start smoking before age 18, that they will remain smoke free for life (the tobacco companies are obviously aware of these facts also).
  • Tobacco kills more Americans than criminal violence, drunk driving, suicide, illicit drugs, and HIV/AIDS combined. It is the number one cause of preventable death in our country.
  • 1 in 3 kids who try smoking become a regular smoker - 3/4 of them try to quit, but only 1 in 6 succeed.
  • After the U.S. banned TV smoking ads in the early 1970's tobacco companies began systematically using product placement and other techniques to boost smoking in Hollywood movies.
  • Time Warner, Sony, and Disney (which owns Touchstone & Miramax) account for the majority of all U.S. movies with smoking.
  • Paid product placement (by major domestic brands) of tobacco became illegal in 1998, but studios still refuse to certify that nothing of value was gained by their movies where use of tobacco was displayed. This certification should be required during credits of movies (which will hopefully be R-rated) by all producers.
I'm sorry to include such a long list...I could keep going. The more that I write about it though, the angrier that I get. Nobody likes the idea of a child smoking. However, I must say that now that I am a parent...even the idea of someone quietly manipulating and tempting my child into doing something dangerous and potentially fatal really makes me furious. Of course I still feel a huge responsibility to teach my children myself about how to keep their bodies healthy and to avoid things that are dangerous to them, but the facts are rock solid - movies have an influence on our kids! And if there's something that I can do to protect my kids (and children in general) from trying something so addictive and potentially deadly, then you bet I will! I'm not saying that smoking should be outlawed (although due to the health risks, I wish people wouldn't smoke), but I do think that it should be an adult decision. Let the subtle, but strong influence of smoking in movies be left to audiences (of R-rated movies) who are at a point in their lives where they can make that adult decision...not to impressionable, moldable minds of children.
  • Click here to sign the global petition for this effort (it takes less than 30 seconds)!
  • Take a look at this list of links that show you how to take a proactive stand on this issue!
  • There is a website that shows which movies currently in theaters contain smoking. Check it out before you take your child!
  • The Screen Out website has plenty more information. Get informed!
This is the last year that the campaign will be receiving funding. Make sure that we're able to get this message out. If Hollywood knows that movie-goers are demanding this then, well, money talks! For an official guide with more comprehensive information on the campaign itself and the studies that support it click here. The information in this guide also gives specific information on how you can make a difference in supporting this initiative (where to send letters, how to engage local theaters, etc)! And - if you have an idea of how to get this message out to a large audience and want somebody to partner up with in your efforts, then I'd love to (and the campaign is happy to send us free supplies...banners, shirts, whatever)!

I'm also really interested to hear what you think about this campaign, and if you do something about it (even if it's just signing the petition, or posting a link to it on your blog) then I'd love to hear about it!

1 comment:

Camille said...

Trying to sign the petition... but it's being slow. I'm trying to help by not making the computer think as hard about as many things... so goodnight! Hope you enjoyed your book club meeting tonight!