This year for International Week of Action for Smoke-Free Movies, the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central (ITC) Reality Check group spoke out against the tobacco industry using entertainment media to market their products to youth by creating and displaying posters with facts and statements throughout their school to educate their peers. International Week of Action for Smoke-Free Movies is held every year during the same month as the Academy Awards to raise awareness about the impact of smoking in movies and television programming.
Reality Check’s efforts seek to educate and prompt changes in the rating process for major motion pictures; specifically to generate support for giving an R-rating to movies that contain any tobacco imagery. The Motion Picture Association, Inc. (MPA) is the trade group that protects the business interests of six major US film studios: AT&T (Warner Bros.), Comcast (Universal), Disney, Sony, Netflix, and Viacom (Paramount). The MPA manages the US film rating system through its Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). Despite research indicating youth audiences being negatively affected by exposure to on-screen smoking, there has been little action to adopt the R-rating for future films.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, exposure to onscreen smoking in movies increases the risk that young people will start smoking. Giving movies with tobacco use an R-rating would lead to an 18% reduction in youth smoking and would avert 1 million tobacco-related deaths among today’s children and teens. Images of any type of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes have influence. In NYS, nearly 40% of 12th graders use e-cigarettes. As youth vaping remains at epidemic levels, tobacco imagery in movies can contribute to an overall problem with the normalization and glamorization of smoking and vaping in entertainment media and pop culture.
The Reality Check program is part of Tobacco-Free CNY and works to engage local stakeholders, educate community leaders and the public, and mobilize community members and organizations to strengthen tobacco and e-cigarette policies that prevent and reduce tobacco and vape use. Efforts also focus on reducing youth exposure to harmful tobacco and e-cigarette marketing in retail settings, limiting exposure to secondhand smoke, and reducing smoking imagery in the media. For more information about Reality Check and Tobacco-Free CNY programs, visit www.tobaccofreecny.org or call 315-435-3280.