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Smoking in the Movies

Tobacco in youth-rated movies, 2012
Text description of this infographic is available on a separate page.


  • In 2012, the Surgeon General concluded that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and smoking initiation among young people1.
  • Almost one-half (45%) of top-grossing films in the United States between 2002 and 2012 were rated PG-13, making them easily accessible to youth.
  • Recent content analysis of tobacco imagery in movies showed a decline in the appearance of tobacco incidents in PG-13 movies from 2005 to 20102. However, in 2011, incidents increased3 and this increase continued in 2012.

2012 Findings

  • In 2012, there were a total of 2,818 tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies, compared to 1,880 in 2011 and 1,819 in 2010, when the total number of incidents reached its lowest level since 20024.
    • This included 1,155 tobacco incidents in PG-13 movies (vs. 565 in 2010)
    • Tobacco incidents in R rated films also increased, from 1,220 in 2010 to 1,640 in 2012.
  • Despite the low amount of smoking in G and PG movies (30 incidents in 2010 and 23 in 2012), total tobacco incidents in youth-rated movies and incidents per youth-rated movie doubled between 2010 and 2012.

Tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies, by MPAA rating, 1991-2012
Text description of this graph is available on a separate page.

  • In 2012, tobacco incidents per youth-rated movie ranged from 4.3 (Comcast: Universal) to 26.5 (Time Warner: Warner Bros.). The percent of youth-rated movies without tobacco incidents ranged from 46% (Sony) to 92% (Disney).
  • By January 2013, five studios had policies in place to discourage smoking in youth-rated movies. However, all allow exceptions.
    • Between 2010 and 2011, companies with policies in place had an increase in tobacco incidents per youth-rated film3.
    • While Comcast and Disney had slightly fewer incidents in 2012, Time Warner incidents increased. Most companies without policies in place continued to show an increase in 2012.

    Explanation: Viacom, a non-policy company before 2013, went down in 2012, while Time Warner, a policy company, went up.

  • In 2012, youth-rated movies delivered 14.8 billion tobacco impressions (paid admissions X tobacco incidents), an increase of 33% over 2011.

In-theater tobacco impressions, by MPAA rating, 2002-2012
Text description of this graph is available on a separate page.


  • The data suggest that current movie studio policies are not sufficient to maintain reductions in on-screen tobacco incidents, as studios with policies had more incidents in 2012 than in 2010.
  • Several strategies have been identified to reduce youth exposure to on-screen tobacco incidents1,2.
  • The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report concluded that an industry-wide standard to rate movies with tobacco imagery R, would result in reductions in youth smoking.3
  • States and local jurisdictions could also work towards reducing tobacco imagery in movies through business incentive programs.2


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young Adults. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, 2012 [accessed 2013 Mar 25].
  2. Glantz S, Mitchell, S, Titus K, Polansky JR, Kaufmann R, Bauer U (2011) Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies—United States, 2010 MMWR 60:909–913. [accessed 2013 Mar 25]
  3. Glantz SA, Iaccopucci A, Titus K, Polansky JR. Smoking in top-grossing US movies, 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:120170. [accessed 2013 Mar 25].
  4. Polansky JR, Titus K, Lanning N, Glantz SA (2013). Smoking in top-grossing US movies, 2012 . University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. [accessed 2013 Mar 25].

For Further Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Office on Smoking and Health
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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