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CDC Wants Major Changes to Depictions of Tobacco Use in Youth-Oriented Films

A new study published last week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, indicates that onscreen depictions of tobacco use in 2011 increased 7 percent from 2010. In fact, scenes involving smoking increased 34 percent last year in films rated G, PG and PG-13.

Screeners noted a 311 percent increase in incidents of smoking in G- and PG-rated films, with youth-oriented films delivering 68 percent of all in-film tobacco “impressions” in 2011. Last year’s totals represent a marked increase over 2010’s estimates, in which youth-oriented films made up only 39 percent of theatrical films depicting tobacco use. 

Researchers say that last year’s increase in on-screen smoking ends a five-year downward trend in depictions of cinematic tobacco usage. The authors of the report suggest several methods of curbing tobacco depictions in youth-oriented films, including automatic R-ratings for any films featuring characters smoking. 

“The reversal of progress toward less onscreen smoking in youth-rated movies underscores the need to rate movies with tobacco imagery as R, establishing an industry-wide market incentive to keep youth-marketed movies tobacco-free,” the report states. 

Additionally, the authors of the report recommend that anti-smoking messages run before any film – including Internet downloads and streaming video content – depicting “tobacco imagery.” The researchers urged filmmakers to implement “complementary policies” to guarantee that movie companies do not receive compensation for depicting smoking in films, ultimately leading to the “end of depiction of tobacco brands” in Hollywood films.

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