Tobacco free “In the Heights” an audience, critical success

Two years ago Cinema Blend reported that Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted to include a hookah in his new film In the Heights, but didn’t do it out of concern that doing so could trigger an R rating and reduce the audience (and money the film would make):

Lin-Manuel Miranda is currently in the process of making a big screen adaptation of his hit play In The Heights, and he was apparently saddened to learn about this rule on set – presumably because it’s going to prevent him from fully properly depicting the New York City neighborhood in which the story is set: Washington Heights. You can check out his Tweet about his discovery … It seems like Lin-Manuel Miranda and the filmmakers making In The Heights were presented a choice on set: either the film could feature hookahs and get an R-rating that would potentially limit the size of the audience; or that bit of authenticity could be left out in order to play towards a more family-friendly PG-13. Ultimately the latter option won out, but it also doesn’t really seem like Miranda is too happy about it.

That’s exactly why Smokefree Media, on the advice of Hollywood insiders, wants an R rating for smoking and other tobacco use (with a few exceptions) to protect youth from the tobacco-stimulating effects of onscreen depictions.  Doing so maintains creative freedom along with an economic incentive to stop promoting tobacco to youth in the name of “art.”  

The irony is that the Motion Picture Association still hasn’t actually modernized its rating system to award an R for smoking despite advice from its own experts as well as pressure from pediatricians, health groups, and policy makers.

AT&T, which owns Warner Media, does have a policy to “to reduce or eliminate the depiction of smoking and tobacco products/brands in their feature films,” albeit with the loophole “unless there is a compelling creative reason for such depictions.”  Apparently whoever Miranda asked told him to leave out the hookah.

Reflecting current reality, the film is tobacco free, and shows two no smoking signs: one that is clearly depicted in the bodega and shown in several clips, and another no smoking sign in a city bus.

Like Disney’s recently-released Cluella, In the Heights shows that audiences still love films without tobacco.

Leaving out the hookah didn’t hurt the film with critics either, who love the film.

(This item is cross-posted from the Smokefree Media blog.)

Published by Stanton Glantz

Stanton Glantz is a retired Professor of Medicine who served on the University of California San Francisco faculty for 45 years. He conducts research on tobacco and cannabis control and cardiovascular disease/

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