What the Oscars tell us about smoking in the movies in 2017
The big news of the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony was the best-picture award mix-up between “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” But this year’s Oscars was also a reminder of some old news: tobacco use remains prevalent in movies that appeal to youth.
Of the 2017 Oscar-nominated feature films that were rated PG-13 (excluding animation and documentary categories), 70 percent depicted tobacco use.
Of the 2017 Oscar-nominated feature films that were rated PG-13 (excluding animation and documentary categories), 70 percent depicted tobacco use. Tobacco use on screen is a public health concern because, as the U.S. Surgeon General reported in 2012, exposure to smoking imagery in movies can cause young people to start smoking.
Both PG-13-rated “La La Land” and R-rated “Moonlight” included tobacco content. In the future, if all films with smoking were rated R, like “Moonlight,” teen smoking rates would decline 18 percent, according to a Surgeon General report from 2014. That same year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that giving an R rating to movies with tobacco content would prevent 1 million tobacco deaths among children and teens alive today.
The tobacco industry has a long history in Tinsel Town. From the 1920s through the 1950s, tobacco companies provided advertising for movies in print media and radio, and signed movie stars to advertising contracts. Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, the tobacco industry shifted its focus to product placement in movies. For example, the industry supplied cigarettes to PG- and G-rated movies including “Grease,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “The Muppet Movie.”
The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement banned paid tobacco product placement in entertainment. Still, between 2002 and 2015, more than half—59 percent—of PG-13 movies showed images of smoking or another form of tobacco use.
On top of the continued problems with smoking in the movies, tobacco use is also evident in other forms of entertainment. For example, smoking imagery is prevalent in video games, including many teen-rated games.
For more information on smoking in the movies, visit Smokefree Movies at the University of California, San Francisco.