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The Truth About Tobacco Use in Movies

February 28, 2018

As you may already know, the Academy Awards are coming up on March 4th. This brings to mind the incredible influence the award ceremonies and movie industry have on adults and youth. Whether speaking on social justice issues or in the world of healthcare, the voice of media is loud and heard by many. Here at Hillcrest, we recognize the power and influence of media and are in support of positive messages promoting good health. However, Hillcrest with support from the Truth Initiative, has noticed that not all messages from media are positive. We still see a lot of unhealthy behaviors in the media including use of tobacco products.

Tobacco is still the biggest cause of preventable death in the Unites States, killing nearly half a million adult smokers every year. So why are so many kids still starting to smoke?

Let’s take a look at the movies nominated for the 2018 Oscars ® to see one obvious reason. 86% of these films feature smoking, and we know that smoking on screen has initiated 37% of youth smokers. The films have already delivered nearly six billion tobacco exposures to theater audiences of all ages – and will expose even more kids on video. No parent wants their child to smoke, but kids can’t avoid seeing smoking on screen.

The US Surgeon General has confirmed that watching movies with smoking causes kids to smoke. We need to get tobacco out of the movies that kids see most.

The CDC reports that simply R-rating future movies with smoking can stop a million tobacco deaths in this generation of kids. The Hollywood studios control the rating system. Why haven’t they taken this step? Instead, as the Oscar ® films show, they’re still packing movies with smoking.

Why is the movie business still doing the tobacco industry’s dirty work, recruiting millions of new, young smokers to replace each smoker killed by tobacco?

I love movies. But I hate the fact that Hollywood knows the harm it is doing, yet does nothing serious about it. There are plenty of others in my community who care about this. Take the next step now with me and text REEL3 to 88709. Show the movie industry that we care about the health of our future generations and do not need to see more unhealthy behaviors being promoted to our youth.

Aleah Erenberger – Tobacco Use Prevention Lead, Hillcrest Family Services/ Youth Lead for Reinvent the Reel, Truth Initiative