Medical Group Rips Smoking Scenes, Seeks R Ratings

By Robert Marich
   May 28, 2009 -- The advocacy wing of the American Medical Assn. is criticizing movies depicting tobacco use in a summer-long campaign that will culminate with naming the studio that is the biggest offender in its view. The campaign includes posting advocacy ads on outdoor billboards.
   Says a New York Times article: ‘“Which Movie Studios Will Cause the Most Youth to Start Smoking This Summer?’ is the name of the effort. Components include a Facebook scorecard,, tallying the number of tobacco images depicted in movies rated G, PG and PG-13 from May to August. The studio found to be the biggest offender will be named on billboards in September.”
   The Facebook page includes the production of a faux school-like report card with a stamp-like grade in red-colored type: “F-Hollywood FAILS to protect kids from the #1 preventable cause of death—smoking.”
  The A.M.A. Alliance wing is partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the California Youth Advocacy Network. They are counting depictions of characters smoking cigarettes and other such products in G, PG and PG-13 movies this summer. One objective is to get the industry film classification board to automatically rate films with smoking a restrictive R. At present, the rating group considers smoking in formulating a rating, along with violence, sex and language.
    “Studios, under pressure from health groups, have been urging filmmakers to trim tobacco scenes but have balked at an outright ban, citing the need for artistic license,” says the New York Times article by Brooks Barns. The Motion Picture Assn. of America notes that movie DVDs now routinely include public-service ads against smoking.
   The A.M.A. Alliance and others have complained about the issue for years. For example, last summer they beefed about what they called gratuitous cigar smoking in PG-13-rated The Incredible Hulk.
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