Fight over rating for horror movie adds to case for R rating movies with smoking

Seeing smoking in movies causes kids to smoke.

Since 2001 the Smokefree Movies campaign (now Smokefree Media) has urged an R rating for movies that include smoking or other tobacco use. The logic for this recommendation, which was based on advice we got from people inside the Hollywood community, was to create an economic incentive to leave the smoking out of films rated to be marketed to kids, thereby lowering exposure to onscreen smoking images.

The Motion Picture Association, the major studios’ lobbying organization that controls the ratings system has consistently argued that the system is sacrosanct and can’t be modernized to reflect the scientific conclusion that onscreen smoking is a toxic exposure that promotes nicotine addiction.

A recent article in the New York Times on current controversy about the film Infinity Pool illustrates the economics of the rating system, how producers manipulate their films to get the desired rating, the fact that the MPA is now considering changing the ratings system in response to pressure from at least one producer.

This case adds to the case that the proposed R rating for smoking would lead to less tobacco imagery in movies rated for kids. It also shows that the MPA (and the studios that control it) are willing to change the rating system when it is in the economic interests to do so.

While they’re at it, they could also modernize it to protect their young customers by adding smoking and other tobacco use (with specific exceptions for actual historical figures who actually smoked and clearly showing the risks of smoking) to the criteria for an R rating.

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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