The Riverside County Department of Public Health, Tobacco Control Project takes aim against smoking scenes in movies.
In 1998, California constituents voted in favor of Proposition 99, an initiative that funds 20 percent of the TCP.
A main goal of the TCP is create awareness about the presence of smoking scenes in motion pictures and encourage community-based organizations and agencies to promote policies that will lessen the presumed influence tobacco companies have on youth viewers.
“Movies affect the way we talk, dress and act in certain situations. Certainly, it is no surprise that smoking in movies has such a powerful influence on youth’s smoking behavior,” a Tobacco Control Project press release said.
According to C-Stats.info, a California Department of Public Health website providing county and statewide statistics, 12.1 percent of Riverside County youth currently smoke, 2.1 percent smoke daily and 39.2 percent reported ever smoking in 2008. Two years prior, 17.4 percent of Riverside County youth currently smoke, 2.4 percent smoke daily and 45.8 percent reported ever smoking.
Though there is no data providing a direct connection between the decreasing amounts of youth smokers and the number of smoking scenes in movies, the TCP believes they have seen success in their goal to omit smoking scenes in youth-rated (PG-13) movies, which they believe to be a factor in teen smoking.
TCP Health Educator James Jo said, “The number of youth-rated films with smoke has been decreasing over the years.”
Seventy-five percent of PG- 13 movies still contain smoking scenes, said Jo.
The TCP encourages the endorsement of Four Policy Solutions: higher ratings for movies with smoking scenes, no pay-offs between advertisers and movie producers, requirement of anti-smoking ads and omission of tobacco brands in movies.
Tobacco companies have their own policies.
The website of R.J. Reynolds, a leading manufacturer of tobacco products, says, “The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) that R.J. Reynolds and other cigarette manufacturers signed in November 1998 sets forth numerous tobacco-marketing restrictions. In addition to those restrictions, R.J. Reynolds continues to follow several rules, as stated in the Voluntary Cigarette Advertising and Promotion Code regarding cigarette advertising.”
The rules include: “Cigarette advertising shall not suggest that smoking is essential to social prominence, distinction, success or sexual attraction, nor shall it picture a person smoking in an exaggerated manner; No one depicted in cigarette advertising shall be or appear to be under 25 years of age; and, No sports or celebrity testimonials shall be used or those of others who would have special appeal to persons under 21 years of age,” said the R.J. Reynolds website.
Even though tobacco companies apparently make their own considerable efforts to avoid advertising to youth, James Jo said tobacco companies are still the “main opposition” to their project.
The TCP press release said, “The use of tobacco in the movies is unnecessary, serving no purpose but to glamorize and inappropriately emphasize smoking as a desirable behavior.”