Saturday, November 18, 2017


One change to the movie rating system could save a million young lives

Corning, NY – According to the Surgeon General’s newest report, ending exposure to on-screen smoking from PG-13 movies would avert a million future tobacco deaths among America’s children.1    Tobacco imagery in youth-rated movies is a cause of youth smoking.2   In 2014, PG-13 movies delivered more than 50 percent of all tobacco impressions in the movies.  Reality check is calling on Hollywood to change its rating system to automatically rate movies with smoking “R”.

Reality Check of Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties joined youth around the world to create awareness about the way Hollywood movies encourage youth to use tobacco during International Week of Action (February 21-27), which coincides with the week leading up to the 88th Academy Awards. On Tuesday, February 23 Reality Check hosted a free showing of the smoke-free film Jurassic World at the Corning Palace Theatre. Youth organizations from across the 3 counties were invited, including a local Girls Scout troop and Glove House. A local news outlet, WETM, covered the event with a live remote during which Reality Check youth were interviewed. Attendees were asked to sign petitions of support for Smoke Free Movies and participate in the “#RateItR” social media selfie campaign. Youth were also provided with free concessions and prizes for attending.

Along with other international efforts this week, Reality Check programs in New York State have been participating in smoke free media activities throughout the month of February. For more than 10 years, Reality Check has been working to get Hollywood to eliminate smoking in youth- rated movies by using an “R” rating.  In 2014, PG-13 movies delivered 7.8 billion tobacco impressions in the U.S.5

“It’s time for Hollywood to stop glamorizing smoking in the movies kids see,” said Rebecca, Reality Check youth leader.  “Movies that contain smoking should have an “R” rating because smoking on screen kills in real life.”

According to the Surgeon General’s 2014 Report, youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke; those who get the most exposure to on-screen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure.3   The report further states that actions that would eliminate the depiction of tobacco use in movies could have a significant effect on preventing youth from becoming tobacco users.4   PG-13 movies are the biggest concern since they account for a majority of on-screen smoking. 

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has so far been unwilling to change its rating system to trigger an “R” rating when smoking imagery is part of a film.  All of the leading movie studios, Sony, Disney, Time Warner, Comcast, News Corporation (Fox), and Viacom, as well as some independent studios, have voluntarily adopted smoke free movie policies for youth-rated movies, but have often failed to abide by their own policies.   In 2014, 43 percent of PG-13 movies contained smoking and three of the six studios saw an increase in smoking in youth-rated films.5   Disney is the only studio that did not produce a PG-13 rated movie containing tobacco imagery in 2014 and has stated it will not include smoking in “Disney” branded films, but will not make the same pledge for other brands it produces films under.

 “Parents, teachers and our community are encouraged to send a message that the amount of tobacco use kids are seeing in the media has got to stop,” said Sarah Robbins, Reality Check Coordinator.  “Support our effort and send an e-mail to the MPAA at”

For more information about the harmful effects of tobacco marketing in movies, visit or follow the hashtag on Facebook and Twitter #RateItR.

1  The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress:  A Report of the Surgeon General, page 873,, See also U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Smoking in the Movies (Fact Sheet), August 2014, 
Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults:  A Report of the Surgeon General, 2012,
3  “The Health Consequences of Smoking-50 Years of Progress A Report of the Surgeon General, Executive Summary, Page 15,
4  “The Health Consequences of Smoking-50 Years of Progress A Report of the Surgeon General,
5  Smoking in US top-grossing PG-13 movies, 2013-2014, Preliminary Results, Smoke Free Movies,

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