Smokefree Homes and Families
Smoking in the Media

This section treats the subject of smoking as portrayed on TV and in the movies.

American Lung Association Presents its
Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! Results on tobacco images in 1996 movies.

What messages do young people receive about tobacco use when they watch a movie? The Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! project of the American Lung Association of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails asked over 100 teenagers from the Sacramento and Los Angeles areas to spend a year reviewing 133 current movies and report on their findings. Here's a brief summary of what they learned:

Hollywood gets a Thumbs Up! and a Thumbs Down! on the amount of tobacco use in the movies.

There is a direct correlation between movie rating and tobacco use.

Studios varied tremendously in the amount of tobacco use portrayed.

While only 3% of the population uses cigars, 52% of the movies displayed cigar use.

When it comes to tobacco use, it is the "stars" who smoke.

Men used tobacco much more extensively than women.

Marlboro has the highest brand exposure in the movies.

Anti-tobacco statements were made in 33% of the movies

This project was made possible by a grant received from the Health Protection Act of 1988, Proposition 99.

The winners for 1996 were:

  1. Twister: for being a high tension adventure film with very minimal tobacco use.
  2. Toy Story: for being a youth orientated film with no tobacco use.
  3. The Rock: for being a high adventure film with very minimal tobacco use.
  4. Woody Harrelson: for not using tobacco and opposing its use by his wife.
  5. Billy Bob Thorton: for no tobacco use.
  6. Diane Keaton: for not using tobacco plus making a few anti-tobacco statements.
  7. Frances McDormand: for not using tobacco.
  8. Emily Watson: for not using tobacco.
The big losers were:

  1. Independence Day: for glamorizing cigars.
  2. Jerry McGuire: for cigars that were used during a celebration.
  3. Shine: for extensive tobacco use (well over 100! incidents).
  4. Ralph Fiennes: as the English Patient who smokes.
  5. Tom Cruise: for promoting cigar use at his bachelor party.
  6. Geoffrey Rush: for continuously using tobacco throughout the entire movie, from his teenage years through adulthood.
  7. Brenda Blethyn: for using tobacco plus allowing her daughter to smoke in her home.
  8. Kristen Scott Thomas: for using tobacco and glamorizing it.
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Our Forum on Smoking in the Media

Vicki Osis writes: I just watched a new release movie and am disgusted by the obligatory smoking scene that every new movie seems to offer. Any effort to ban cigarette advertising is useless unless we can put a stop to this type of advertising. Teens are the biggest audience of movies and the scenes are designed to glamorize smoking. How about a boycott of new release movies by the anit smoking forces. It may be the only way to get the movie producers attention. The summer season is the time of new release movies as is the Christmas season.

Greg Norcross writes: Young people are especially exposed TV programs and movies. How come in almost every one and, in some, most scenes someone is smoking? Smoking is presented as an ordinary, casual activity as if it were no issue. I am not referring to movies made 40-50 years ago when most people smoked and is was an ordinary social activity, but today when smoking is not generally acceptable and,indeed, is a major health hazard. If people have to smoke in movies, etc. why can't it be done only by the "bad guys" or shown in some other negative context where it really belongs? This approach to educating young people against smoking would seem to be an effective weapon. Do the tobacco companies really carry that much weight with the entertainment industry or is the entertainment industry mostly smokers?

Jay Richardson writes: Where can I write to protest the growing use of cigarettes in movies and television?

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