Study suggests giving R-rating to films that depict smoking

Friday, January 4th, 2013 By

A still of Jean-Paul Belmondo from the film "À bout de souffle."

Smoking was once as common in films as breathing. Now, public health is a greater priority. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Merz/Media Spin)

Ratings standards for American films have stirred no small amount of controversy. The clash between directors, studios and the MPAA ratings board has touched off fiery debate (well-documented in the 2006 documentary “This Movie is Not Yet Rated“), and now Time Magazine reports there’s something new to fire up tempers in Hollywood. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that smoking in films should mandate that an “R” rating be given to the film as a protection for children and young teens.

Tobacco industry not allowed to pay for smoking product placement

The CDC study indicates that even though tobacco companies were banned in 1998 from being able to pay to place their products in films, there’s still more smoking in films today than there was at that time. Numerous studies cited by the CDC suggest that children and young teens do respond to smoking seen in films; they’re more likely to try smoking, versus adolescents who see little of it. Public health officials have reported concern over the potential for future health problems. A significant number of G, PG and PG-13-rated films contain smoking, which has prompted the rating reclassification suggestion.

Other suggestions for stamping out the celluloid butts

In addition to the R rating suggestion, other ideas given by the CDC are to air anti-smoking ads onscreen before the start of a film and to specify in film credits that no person or company associated with the movie received financial compensation from the tobacco industry or any associated company. However, the CDC’s R rating for smoking in movies seems to have gained the most traction to date, echoing a sentiment already given by the World Health Organization. Smoking in films marketed to kids and teens is socially irresponsible, says the WHO

Don’t smoke, kids; it’s expensive

Smokers need more money to keep up with their habit nowadays. MSN Money adds this sobering factoid to the anti-smoking fire. A 40-year-old smoker who kicks the habit and funnels the money spent on cigarettes and the associated dry cleaning and higher health insurance rates into something more productive like a 401 (k) could conceivably save more than $250,000 by age 70. Choosing black lung over a comfortable retirement is enough to send anyone’s budget scrambling for payday loans and installment loans to fill the gaps. Buying into the expense of smoking is an R rated horror film if ever there was one.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

MSN Money

Time Magazine

World Health Organization

Fox News report on removing cigarettes from movies

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