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These 10 youth-serving groups want to get smoking off movie screens

Ten youth-serving groups received grants from Truth Initiative® and Trinity Health to get rid of smoking in movies, one of the few places where it continues to be portrayed positively, as a normal social behavior and as glamorous, rebellious and edgy.

Each group received a “Reinvent the Reel” grant of up to $2,500 to raise awareness of the issue of smoking in movies and popular culture, and advocate for entertainment media companies to implement an R rating for movies with smoking. The grants will support these groups as they educate and engage young people around the issue of tobacco use in movies, at local events and on social media.

Reinvent the reel, finish smoking on screen

Addressing the issue of smoking in movies is important because research has shown that exposure to smoking imagery in movies directly influences youth smoking behaviors. For example:

  • Exposure to onscreen smoking in movies can cause young people to start smoking — in fact, 44 percent of adolescents who start smoking do so because of smoking images they saw in the movies.
  • An R rating for movies with smoking would lead to an 18 percent decline in teen smoking.
  • Youth who are heavily exposed to onscreen smoking imagery are approximately two to three times as likely to begin smoking, compared with youth who are lightly exposed.

In addition to movies, tobacco use is an issue in other forms of entertainment. Reinvent the Reel grantees will also raise awareness of smoking in video games and TV streaming content. The Truth Initiative report “Played: Smoking and Video Games” found that tobacco use in video games is likely to promote youth smoking in similar ways as tobacco use in movies, and tobacco in any form of entertainment contributes to the perceived normalization of smoking.

The Reinvent the Reel program comes on the heels of a challenge from public health groups to entertainment studios to apply an R rating to movies with smoking by June 1, 2018. Only films that portray real people who used tobacco, such as in documentaries or biographical dramas, or that depict the negative health effects of tobacco use, should be exempt.

Reinvent the Reel grantees include America On Track in Santa Ana, California; American Lung Association in Newark, Delaware; HEART Coalition in Atlanta, Georgia; Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque, Iowa; Indiana Black Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana; Licking County Health Department in Newark, Ohio; PreventionFIRST! in Cincinnati, Ohio; Sherman County Prevention Coalition in Loup City, Nebraska; Siouxland District Health Department in Sioux City, Iowa; and St. Peter's Health Foundation in Albany, New York.

For more information, please contact [email protected]or 202-454-5555.