2013 Oscars® Red Carpet Reality Check: Smoking in Movies Proven Harmful to Kids

February 19, 2013 (Vancouver) – As film buffs across BC anticipate the Oscars this weekend, health advocates are asking why young audiences end up as the biggest losers. Of the seventeen movies up for Academy Awards this year that portray smoking, all except one are kid-rated in BC.

Heavy-smoking movies, rated “R” in the United States, are tagged 14A and PG when studios bring them over the Canada-US border and market them in BC. This year, 94 percent of the movies depicting smoking that are nominated in major Oscar categories are youth-rated in BC. That’s double the number (47%) youth-rated in the US.

A year ago, the US Surgeon General reported the history of tobacco and film industry collaboration, reviewed research studies involving thousands of adolescents, and concluded that on-screen smoking causes kids to smoke.

“Exposure to on-screen smoking harms kids physically,” said Scott McDonald, CEO, BC Lung Association, and chair, BC Alliance for Healthy Living (BCAHL). “Changing the ratings so that an adult rating is given to movies with smoking would make a big difference in preventing youth from ever starting to smoke. The adult ‘R’ rating would persuade producers to leave tobacco out of more films, especially those targeted to youth audiences.”

A series of rigorous US studies indicate that movies with smoking recruit more than one-third of new young smokers each year.
Of all top-grossing movies in 2011-2012, kid-rated movies delivered more than 90 percent of tobacco impressions to BC theater audiences, compared to just over 60 percent in the US, according to an analysis done for BCAHL.

Pamela McColl, a representative of Smoke Free Movies Western Canada said, “We’re not alone in calling for change. Canada signed the global tobacco control treaty and its guidelines recommend adult-ratings for movies with smoking in them, with only two exceptions: if the smoker is a real person, like George VI in The King’s Speech, or if the movie shows tobacco’s real health consequences.”

BC health organizations have joined others worldwide in advocating the adult rating; strong anti-tobacco spots before all films with smoking; an end to tobacco brand display on screen; and producer certification that no one associated with a production took tobacco-related payoffs. There are also calls to make film and TV productions with tobacco ineligible for tax credits and other public subsides.
The BC Alliance for Healthy Living includes the BC Lung Association, BC Pediatric Society, BC Recreation and Parks Association, Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon Division, Canadian Diabetes Association, Dietitians of Canada, BC Region, Heart and Stroke Foundation, BC and Yukon, Public Health Association of BC, Union of BC Municipalities; and representatives from all five health authorities; and 31 other regional or provincial non-profit organizations committed to disease prevention through healthy living.

Rita Koutsodimos, Manager Advocacy and Communications
BC Alliance for Healthy Living Secretariat
Ph: 604.629.1630 / 1.778.462.2062
Cel: 1.604.989.4546