Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Smoke free movies

A new ad appeared in the May 2011 edition of State Legislatures magazine.

It's sponsored by an organization called Smoke Free Movies, which protests the fact that states give away millions of dollars in tax credits to producers of movies that include smoking.

They claim that these movies have recruited more than 1 million teen smokers, and that the film tax credits and other subsidies only serve to undercut the millions of dollars that states also spend to fight tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

In the top 10 movies based on box office gross in the week of May 9, 3 out of the 10 included smoking. Here's the chart including the studio which produced them.

In the top 10 dvd rentals, 6 of the 10 included smoking. (They do differentiate between smoking and smoking with negative consequences.)

What are they asking states to do? Here is their proposed fix:

A campaign has started to ask states to reform their film credit program by denying subsidies to any production that includes smoking. For example, in January/February of 2011, California public health officials wrote a letter to the California film commission stating that it was "unconscionable" that one state program, the film commission, could be used to help undermine the work being done on tobacco prevention. They are asking that films that include smoking be ineligible for any taxpayer subsidies.

Washington State's Attorney General petitioned the Department of Commerce to amend their film subsidy rules to deny film subsidies to films that include smoking.

Apparently, the PG rated "Rango", an animated film starring the voice of Johnny Depp, set off major alarms with 60 instances of characters smoking and prompted the placement of the ad in Variety and Hollywood Reporter. Smoke free advocates are calling on the MPAA to change their rating policy and give an "R" rating for any movie that includes smoking.

"A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie," said Stanton Glantz of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco.

Good point or a bit of a stretch? Health policy vs. Creative censorship?

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