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Smoking in the Movies



Tobacco in youth-rated movies, 2013
Text description of this infographic is available on a separate page.

  • A “tobacco incident” is one occurrence of smoking or other tobacco use in a movie.
  • “Incidents” are a measure of the number of occurrences of smoking or other tobacco use in a movie.
  • A “tobacco impression” is one person seeing one incident.
  • “Impressions” are a measure of total audience exposure.
  • This report’s movie sample comprises all movies that ranked among the top 10 in ticket sales (“top-grossing movies”) in any week of their first-run release to U.S. theaters.

Overview

  • Watching movies that include smoking causes young people to start smoking.1
  • The number of smokefree youth-rated movies (G, PG, PG-13) increased from 2002 to 2013. But in movies that showed any smoking, the average number of tobacco incidents per movie also increased.2
  • The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the studios' organization that assigns ratings, provides a "smoking label" along with the regular rating for movies that contain smoking. However, about 9 of every 10 (88%) youth-rated, top-grossing movies with smoking do not contain an MPAA "smoking label."2
  • The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report (Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults) concluded that an industrywide standard to rate movies with tobacco incidents R could result in reductions in youth smoking.1
  • Giving an R rating to future movies with smoking would be expected to reduce the number of teen smokers by nearly 1 in 5 (18%) and prevent one million deaths from smoking among children alive today.3

Background

  • In 2012, the Surgeon General concluded that exposure to onscreen smoking in movies causes young people to start smoking.1 Because of this exposure to smoking in movies:
    • 6.4 million children alive today will become smokers, and 2 million of these children will die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking.2
  • Between 2002 and 2013:2
    • Almost half (45%) of top-grossing movies in the United States were rated PG-13.
    • 6 of every 10 PG-13 movies (61%) showed smoking or other tobacco use.

Additional 2013 Findings2

  • The percentage of PG-13 movies with tobacco incidents continued to decrease, with more than 6 of every 10 (62%) being tobacco-free in 2013, compared with 2 of every 10 (20%) in 2002.
  • In 2013, the number of tobacco incidents in the average PG-13 movie (34 incidents) was almost as high as the number in the average R-rated movie with tobacco (35 incidents).
  • Movies rated G and PG included fewer than 10 total tobacco incidents in 2013, the least observed since 2002.

Figure 1. Tobacco Incidents in Top-Grossing Movies by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Rating, 1991–20132


  • The number of tobacco incidents in movies varies by movie company. From 2010 to 2013:2
    • Tobacco incidents increased in youth-rated movies from Comcast, Disney, and Time Warner and among independent movie companies.
    • Tobacco incidents decreased in movies from Fox, Sony, and Viacom (Paramount).

Figure 2. In-Theater Tobacco Impressions by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Rating, 2002–20132

In-theater tobacco impressions, by MPAA rating, 2002-2013 Text description of this graph is available on a separate page.

Conclusions

  • The data show that individual movie company policies alone have not been shown to be efficient at minimizing smoking in movies. Studios with policies have had more tobacco incidents in 2013 than 2010.2
  • Several strategies have been identified to reduce youth exposure to onscreen tobacco incidents.1,2
  • Reducing the number of tobacco incidents in movies will further protect young people from starting to use tobacco.2
  • The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report concluded that an industrywide standard to rate movies with tobacco incidents R could result in reductions in youth smoking.1
  • The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report (The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress) concluded that youth rates of tobacco use would be reduced by 18% if tobacco incidents and impressions in PG-13 films were eliminated by actions like having all future movies with tobacco incidents receive an R rating.1
  • States and local jurisdictions could also work towards reducing tobacco incidents in movies.2




References

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012 [accessed 2014 Aug 22].
  2. Polansky JR, Titus K, Lanning N, Glantz SA. Smoking in Top-Grossing U.S. Movies, 2013 University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, 2014 [accessed 2014 Aug 22].
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2014 Aug 22].
  4. Motion Picture Association of America. Film Ratings–2014 [accessed 2014 Aug 22].

For Further Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Office on Smoking and Health
E-mail: tobaccoinfo@cdc.gov
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO

Media Inquiries: Contact CDC's Office on Smoking and Health press line at 770-488-5493.

 
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