Durbin Leads Call To Reduce Smoking In Movies Geared Toward Children & Teens

Calls on film industry to take additional actions to prevent youth smoking

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to take action to reduce depictions of smoking, including e-cigarette depictions, in youth-rated movies and ensure responsible and consistent practices. The U.S. Surgeon General has definitively concluded that exposure to smoking in movies leads to youth initiation, but enactment of certain public health policies could reduce youth smoking rates by nearly 20% and prevent one million deaths. Although tobacco impressions in youth-rated movies declined from 18.2 billion in 2002 to 2.9 billion in 2015, they have increased over the past two years to 4.6 billion in 2017—nearly 6 in 10 PG-13 movies depict tobacco use. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) joined Durbin on the letter.  

“Although the evidence connecting smoking imagery to youth smoking initiation is strong, MPAA has yet to take meaningful action to discourage tobacco imagery in films or effectively warn viewers and parents of tobacco’s presence in a movie,” wrote the Senators in their letter to MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin. “Our nation’s dramatic decline in youth tobacco use is a tremendous achievement, but on-screen depictions remain a threat to this progress and threaten to re-normalize tobacco use in our society. We cannot afford to lose any ground in this area.”

A copy of the letter can he found HERE. 

After repeated requests from several state Attorneys General, the MPAA commissioned a study that recommended, among other steps, that “a movie ratings policy that creates an incentive for filmmakers to consider, and worry about, the depiction of smoking as a factor in the determination of a film’s rating.”  Disappointingly, from 2007 to 2017, the MPAA merely added small-print “smoking” labels to 11 percent of all top-grossing youth-rated films with smoking.