August 19th, 2010
06:11 PM ET

Smoking in movies still a hazard, CDC says

Nearly half of the top-grossing films from 2009  contained depictions of tobacco use, following an unsteady decline from the early 1990s, according to a report Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figures come two years after the National Cancer Institute warned that kids greatly exposed to onscreen smoking are two to three times more likely to start smoking than youths with lighter exposure.

The study analyzed the number of incidents of tobacco use in the highest-grossing films from 1991 to 2009. During this period, the number of incidents peaked in 2005, but has since progressively declined. The trend may be linked with a significant decrease in high school students who had ever tried a cigarette. However, the decline is not enough given the “strong scientific base that smoking onscreen causes kids to smoke," said lead author of the study, Dr. Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco. Today tobacco use remains the cause of one out of five deaths in the U.S., and approximately 1,000 youths daily become cigarette smokers.

The recommendations of the CDC include assigning an R-rating to films that depict tobacco imagery, anti-tobacco adds preceding films that contain onscreen tobacco use, and prohibiting tobacco brand placements in films. In 2009, the mega-blockbuster film "Avatar" (whose leading actress Sigourney Weaver portrays a cigarette-smoking environmentalist) helped account for the more than 17 billion times a tobacco incident was viewed by a movie-audience member nationwide that year, according to the study. The banning of smoking in films rated PG-13 as urged by the CDC would create an economic disincentive for producers, Glatz says, and would help prevent the tobacco imagery of such films from reaching youths in theaters.

"That’s a very strong statement from a federal bureaucracy,” said  Glantz in a phone call Thursday. “This is the first time that the CDC or any other government agency has said this is a problem that simply needs to be solved now.”

This study was funded in part by the American Legacy Foundation and the California Tobacco Control Program, although they played no role conducting the research or preparing the report, according to the CDC.

soundoff (169 Responses)
  1. lacrosseson

    Just ONCE I'd like to see an episode of The Real World and Hell's Kitchen where no one smoked.

    August 20, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BullshitDetector

      Stop watching shows that purport to show reality if you don't want to see ..... DUUUUH reality!

      August 21, 2010 at 02:00 | Report abuse |
  2. jimb302

    This just in...killing in movies makes more kids want to kill. Parents should raise children, not movies.

    August 20, 2010 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BullshitDetector


      August 21, 2010 at 02:01 | Report abuse |
    • Stacy Priebe

      Absolutley! 🙂

      August 21, 2010 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
  3. doofus

    rofl. absolutely epic. smoking in movies is bad for you.

    August 20, 2010 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Truth

    Smokers talk about freedom of choice, forgetting that by definition, an addict doesn't have that.

    August 20, 2010 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BullshitDetector

      Great argument dude!

      Pretending people don't choose to quit all over the world everyday isn't going to get us anywhere. People choose to start every day and people choose to stop. Addiction doesn't work how you think it does. You always have a choice.

      August 21, 2010 at 02:08 | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      Yes, people choose to quit everyday, but only one in ten succeeds cold turkey. One in ten. Run and tell that, homeboy.

      August 21, 2010 at 04:16 | Report abuse |
    • Truth?

      Um...ignoring the obvious "not everyone quits cold turkey" line, I'd like to point out that by your admission that "one in ten succeeds," you are nullifying your previous argument: that addicts don't have a choice. Congratulations.

      August 21, 2010 at 06:11 | Report abuse |
  5. NoneYa

    Wow that boy in the darker gray jacket looks constipated

    August 20, 2010 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Obicera

    Before starting to smoke someone sits down and analyzes the decision. Do I start a habit that costs thousands of after tax dollars a year (a pack a day costs $1 an hour in hourly wages), costs more in higher insurance premiums, degrades my car trade in value, will likely cause me to die an agonizing death gasping desperately for air at the end, ostracizes me from my friends and co-workers, makes me, my breath and my clothes stink, ruins my teeth, raises my blood pressure and heart rate to 'calm' me down, and runs my life?

    The answer is probably no to the above, yet they start smoking anyway. What are the reasons? What force can override any rationality and make someone start to smoke?

    Personally I'm turned off by smoking on screen. Most of the time it is obviously a forced act and the scene would play better without the smoking. I find myself not going to movies with smoking in them. Funny tho, it doesn't bother me to watch Mad Men or Band of Brothers because at those times in history people did smoke to excess and the shows more accurately depict smoking at the time. With today's greater awareness of the plethora of negative effects of smoking seeing someone smoke on screen is fake.

    August 21, 2010 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pat

      Do you reallly think people sit down and analyze it before they start smoking? I just started smoking because my friends did. I never thought I would be addicted. A few years later I was up to three packs a day and it took half an hour of coughing before I could breathe right in the mornings. I quit cold turkey many years ago, but now I have COPD from the heavy smoking. Kids don't think about consequences. They just like to be cool.

      August 21, 2010 at 00:48 | Report abuse |
    • BullshitDetector

      You have no understanding how a person actually operates.

      August 21, 2010 at 02:09 | Report abuse |
  7. JPo

    “strong scientific base that smoking onscreen causes kids to smoke,"
    I didn't bother reading the rest. This is stupidity.

    August 21, 2010 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. pat

    When I was young and saw James Dean smoking in movies I thought it looked cool. Sure enough, I started doing it myself. My parents never smoked but I had friends who did. It's hard to say which influenced me more, the movies or the friends.

    August 21, 2010 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. fronco

    And all this time i thought it was the eggs i was eating.

    August 21, 2010 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. dude

    Wow. It's Eminem, and Eminem's cousin and Chick Eminem with her loser fat cousin and loser red headed cousin...........and they're smoking..........great story!

    August 21, 2010 at 01:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. JJL

    Ask your local or state agency what they did with the Smoking Settlement Money. They could have bought patches and Chantrix for everyone. It went to these Prohibition style ads, rather than something tangible, like helping people quit.

    As far as smoking in media, those people are pure idiots. They were paid to justify a conclusion. There is no peer-reviewed study that shows smoking(Or violence or sexual promiscuity for that matter) in media makes children smoke. Children smoke due to either peer pressure or because they figure out ingesting nicotine keeps you awake and alert. In Japan, you can get Genki Drinks that have nicotine in them. Now that there are vaporizing smokeless nicotine ingestion devices, the point is moot.

    Now, how much in Tax Dollars are being lost? How much have we paid tobacco farmers to farm something else or not farm at all?

    Best of all, the Lung and Cancer Associations are coming out with, finally, the cancer that is attributed to smokers is being discovered in non-smokers. In people that had no contact with second or third hand smoke(Another idiotic, un-peer reviewed theory). Like, for example, Christopher Reeves Wife. She didn't go near smokers and never smoked. She died of the exact lung cancer that is 100% found in smokers.

    Could it be auto exhaust? Maybe she smoked weed? Maybe the scientists were, as they are with at least 100 prescription meds like Vioxx, Phen-Fen, just plain wrong? They sound like anti-climate change scientists.

    August 21, 2010 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JJL

      Oh yea, CDC...Great Job with the Swine Flu vaccines and predictions. Just going to fire them off now without limited testing next year. How much did you pay the Pharmas for that? How much are the Pharmas paying for your voodoo science?

      How are you doing with MRSA and Tuberculosis? Not so hot, huh? How about spinal meningitis? About as good as MRSA and tuberculosis.

      How about that response to a biological emergency? You won't be able to, as you reported very quietly this week.

      August 21, 2010 at 01:57 | Report abuse |
  12. SLafitte

    Smoking On Film: Bad – Shooting A Person In The Face: Fine.

    August 21, 2010 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. BullshitDetector

    Censoring smoking in media is tantamount to burying your head in the sand. It doesn't actually accomplish anything but make the ignorant feel better about themselves. If you can just avoid seeing smoke on the screen, you can pretend it doesn't exist in real life.

    August 21, 2010 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. AJ

    Smoking isn't a hazard, over smoking is a hazard. Just like drinking, eating, exercise and anything else in our lives, if you do it to much it's going to do you harm. Use common sense and you'll be fine. I've smoked most of my life. I exercise regularly, eat well and according to my checkup last month I'm healthy as a horse. No lung problems (capacity or otherwise), no high blood pressure and no clogged arteries. Kids need to be taught to think, just as I was when I grew up. I always new better then to smoke a pack a day because I was taught one simple rule to apply to life. Use common sense.

    August 21, 2010 at 02:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BullshitDetector

      No doubt. All things in moderation!

      August 21, 2010 at 03:27 | Report abuse |
  15. Phil

    The CDC is a hazard.

    August 21, 2010 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. dzy

    everyone knows smoking not the best thing in the world to do...but enough is enough.......

    August 21, 2010 at 03:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. SAM

    ALCOHOL KILLS others...And is CONODONED on TV,Radio,Billboards,SPorst events,theme parks,Bowling alleys,Theme Parks,and is COONSUMED with and in front of KIDS...Smoking dont even COME CLOSE to the DAMAGE ALCOHOL CAUSES NATIONWIDE

    August 21, 2010 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Malacki

    You know what? Ban smoking or back the f*** off. For now it's legal and it's reality, so SUCK IT UP!

    August 21, 2010 at 04:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rich

    Jeez.. movies are about depicting situations, often as realistically as possible, not providing a feel-good fuzzy public service. Yes people smoke in movies. They also murder, lie, cheat, steal and do drugs. I'm sure some will argue those crimes rise notably due to it, too. Of course, then consider sexual crimes which are rarely depicted in movies, yet occur in great amounts in the real world. Additionally, take into account that murder, for instance, has been a mainstay of movies since their beginning, world wide. Trying to tie movies to unwanted behavior is futile at best and an intentional fabrication at worst.

    August 21, 2010 at 05:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. truebob

    Darwinism in full effect. If my kids see a movie or a hundred movies, and decide to start smoking despite the mountains of evidence, my instruction , and the warning on the package against doing it , well then they get what they deserve.Take what you want, but then you pay for it.

    August 21, 2010 at 05:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. jordan

    talk about a bunch of crap. there's been enough meddling with the movie industry. The whole government in general. i don't know where it was lost the right to make yourself happy as long as it was screwing anyone else over without their consent. the right to make our own choices. only a few decades away from having our birth certificates come printed with class schedules and locker combo's.

    get out while you still can.

    August 21, 2010 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Rich

    What really drives me bonkers is how the government decides that they should get involved in people's luxury activities. From movies to steroids in baseball, I don't know why Congress feels this is a concern they should be involved in. Perhaps simply because they can.

    August 21, 2010 at 06:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Stacy Priebe

    How many people DRINK in movies? I think that to be much worse than smoking if I have to pick the lesser of to evils. Drinking is so socially accpetable, where the marketing & advertising agianst that? Why are schools & tv's raising kids today? Then parents are suddlenly surprised when their children don't know how to take care of themselves, or start doing bad things. If you've never tought them, how are they supposed to know otherwise?? Oh wait! Take smoking off movies... they will educate them all right.

    August 21, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Bree

    I am 20 years old and have never tried a cigarette. I've seen plenty of movies where the main character smokes, and I appreciate how smoking in films helps with setting a mood, characterization, and can often be quite artistic. But that has never made ME want to try smoking. I think real-life influence is the issue: my parents don't smoke. However, almost every friend or coworker does smoke, and I often have to tag along on their smoke breaks. Its all a matter of will power and decision, and I have yet to desire to try a cig.

    August 21, 2010 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. drcid777

    Next I suggest we go after movies that show people eating rich desserts, since sugar is addictive and eating rich desserts can lead to heart disease, the nation's leading killer. Followed by people in risky mountain climbing situations, adreniline is also addictive. Or we could let people continue with personal choices and risk assessment on their own.

    August 21, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. eddy44

    I think jacking up taxes on tobacco and the resulting $5.00+ price per pack have helped reduce the volume of smoking overall, but now cause cigarettes to get smoked down to the butt! New York City's extra taxes have had the effect if inspiring piracy and interstate smuggling in response.

    August 21, 2010 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jangocat

      Kids just smoke pot now, it's cheaper...

      August 22, 2010 at 04:39 | Report abuse |
  27. Alan

    it's the same people who bitch about third hand smoke, this article is gay

    August 21, 2010 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jangocat

    What is this North Korea or China? Because this is what they do. Censor movies to influence and shape their people into what the government wants. Hollywood isn't supposed to portray something that millions of people do so they can protect people from themselves? This is the definition of junk science used to push an agenda on the populace.

    August 22, 2010 at 04:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Joel

    Nothing disturbs me more than a character puffing away at a cigarette right before murdering someone...

    August 22, 2010 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Bonnie

    Perhaps a new rating category would work. "T" for tobacco usage. Then require movies to be made in 2 versions: 1 with tobacco usage depicted, 1 without those scenes. Then find out which version makes the most money.

    Personally, I am in favor of banning the depiction of tobacco usage in all movies and TV shows, unless it is absolutely essential to the story line. I'm sure tobacco producers would find a way to get tobacco into Spong Bob Squarepants, if they could. If we need to "phase out" anything in our culture, it's tobacco.

    August 22, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joel

      Who is going to make that determination? You?

      August 22, 2010 at 11:38 | Report abuse |

    it is hard to be introspective when the world revolves around us. do you see anything you purchased in you life that was not attributed to madison ave. movies are powerful people loose perspective why all the garbage magazines. all health agencies posture that second hand smoke is lethal i guess you have the inside skinny why you are so right. the next time a member of your family sucombes to cancer i guess al you can say is sorry.

    August 22, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. kaerdna

    All this talk about smoking makes me want a cigarette.

    August 23, 2010 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Josey Wales

    They should keep fat people out of movies too I don't want my child to grow up and be fat, because of all of these obese (fat) people are in them too. Honestly, I've worked hard raising my daughter and I don't worry at all about her seeing superman fly,and then jumping off a building, or seeing a fat guy eat twinkies, or Harry Potter casting a spell, or someone smoking. Give them some credit kids today are very intelligent.

    September 25, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. COCO


    September 25, 2010 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. J_Storm

    pam laffin

    October 14, 2010 at 06:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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