Smoking in the Movies

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Tobacco in Youth-Rated Movies2

  • This infographic shows that 2018 youth-rated (G, PG, PG-13) movies included more smoking than the year before.
    • Incidents per movie increased 34%, from 11.2 to 15.0.
    • PG-13 movies that were tobacco-free decreased to 62% (38 of 61 movies) from 50% (30 of 60 movies).
    • Youth-rated movies delivered 10.3 billion tobacco impressions to theater audiences—a 103% increase from 2017.
  • Performance by movie studio varied.
    • Fox, which averaged nine tobacco incidents in its youth-rated movies in 2017, had the most per youth-rated film in 2018 at 40.9.
    • Comcast’s Universal, which averaged a single tobacco incident in its youth-rated movies in 2015, had 35.8 incidents per youth-rated movie in 2018.
    • The Walt Disney Company and Viacom’s Paramount kept all of their youth-rated movies smokefree in 2018, Disney for the second year in a row.
    • Fox and Comcast’s Universal delivered the largest shares of youth-rated tobacco impressions — Fox at 48% (5.0 billion of 10.3 billion) and Comcast’s Universal at 40% (4.2 billion of 10.3 billion) — followed by independent movie companies at 5% (519 million of 10.3 billion), Sony at 4% (458 million of 10.3 billion), and Time Warner at 2% (217 million of 10.3 billion).
  • Fox was the only major studio to average more tobacco incidents in its 2018 youth-rated movies than in its 2017 movies. As a group, independent movie companies without published policies also averaged more tobacco incidents in their youth-rated movies in 2018. Four other major movie companies, Comcast, Sony, Time Warner and Viacom’s Paramount, averaged fewer tobacco incidents. Viacom had no tobacco imagery in its youth-rated films and Disney continued its smokefree status from 2017.

Tobacco Incidents in Top-Grossing Movies by MPAA Rating, 1991–20185

  • This graph shows that the total number of tobacco incidents in movies has fluctuated over more than 20 years, ranging from a low of 1,612 incidents in 1998 to a high of 3,947 incidents in 2005.
    • A 5-year reduction to 1,824 incidents reversed in 2010.
    • After exceeding 2,500 incidents from 2011 to 2014, tobacco incidents in 2015 returned to a level somewhat below 2010, then rebounded to 3,163 incidents in 2016 and 3,141 in 2017.
    • Tobacco incidents decreased to 2,868 incidents in 2018 from 3,141 incidents in 2017, with all the decrease occurring in R-rated movies.
  • Movies rated G and PG accounted for fewer than 1 of every 100 (1%) tobacco incidents in 2018.
  • Movies rated PG-13 accounted for 43 of every 100 (43%) incidents, up from 29 of every 100 (29%) incidents in 2017.

In-Theater Tobacco Impressions by MPAA Rating, 2002–20185

  • The number of tobacco impressions delivered to domestic theater audiences reached 30.1 billion in 2005 and then decreased by half over the next 5 years.
  • From 2010 to 2014, tobacco impressions delivered by PG-13 movies more than doubled, decreased 74% from 2014 to 2015, and returned to 2010 levels in 2016 and 2017 before doubling in 2018.
  • Youth-rated movies delivered 63% of all tobacco impressions in 2018, one of the highest proportions of all in-theater tobacco impressions since at least 2002.
  • While still less than 1% of all tobacco impressions, the number of tobacco impressions delivered by movies rated G and PG was seven times as large in 2018 as in 2017.
  • Most of the 75% decline in tobacco impressions delivered by youth-rated movies from 2002 to 2017 is explained by a decline in smoking in movies with larger budgets (more than $50 million).
  • The doubling of tobacco impressions delivered by youth-rated movies from 2017 to 2018 is almost all due to the release of more movies claimed to be based on actual events but typically depicting many invented characters smoking.
  • Movies of all ratings delivered 16.5 billion tobacco impressions to moviegoers in 2018, up 78% from the 21st Century low of 9.3 billion in 2015.