Yesterday, the Smokefree Movies Action Network launched a campaign to obtain signatures on a global petition to encourage the Motion Picture Association of America to keep smoking out of youth-rated movies. Given that every day, more than 5,000 Americans under the age of 18 will smoke their first cigarette, the factors influencing youth smoking are crucial to address.
ACSH has previously drawn attention to the widespread smoking in movies as a potential factor in encouraging youth smoking. In 2003, Dr. Gilbert Ross's op-ed in USA Today ("Rate films with smoking 'R' for their influence on kids") discussed a study published in Lancet which estimated that about 50% of new smokers age 10-14 began smoking due to the influence of smoking in movies. Dr. Ross mused, "With all of the evidence of the damage to young lungs and other organs that can be provoked by movie smoking, why are there so few in Hollywood who dare to speak the name of the evil that lurks among them: tobacco?"
We hope that the new petition will further open the dialogue within Hollywood about smoking in the movies and its effects on youth behavior.
Rivka Weiser is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health.