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Surgeon General report: exec-summary

The new Surgeon General’s report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, contains an extensive discussion of the effects of smoking in movies on young people. The bottom line: ‘The evidence is sufficient to conclude that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people.’ (Page 6)

Significantly, the 36 page long section, ‘Images of Smoking in Movies and Adolescent Smoking,’ is in Chapter 5, ‘The Tobacco Industry’s Influences on the Use of Tobacco Among Youth.’ The Surgeon General is effectively putting smoking in the movies in the same category as conventional cigarette marketing activities. Indeed, the summary of Chapter 7, ‘A Vision for Ending the Tobacco Epidemic,’ concludes, ‘Greater consideration of further restrictions on advertising and promotional activities as well as efforts to decrease depictions of smoking in the movies is warranted, given the gravity of the epidemic and the need to protect young people now and in the future (page 7).

The report reviews the ‘Historical Links Between the Tobacco Companies and the Movie Industry’ (pages 565-566) and concludes that lowering young people’s level of exposure to on-screen smoking leads to lower risk of smoking (page 593) and and endorses an R rating for smoking as a way to reduce the level of exposure (page 598).

The report also discusses the varying response to the issue of smoking in the movies by studio, and names names (page 570), noting that as of 2010 three studios had policies in place that had nearly eliminated smoking in their youth-rated movies (Disney, Time Warner, Universal) while the others had not (Viacom, News Corp., Sony, and the independent producers).

The ‘fact sheet’ that goes with the report states, ‘Youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke. Those who get the most exposure to onscreen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure. Images of smoking in movies have declined over the past decade; however, in 2010 nearly a third of top-grossing movies produced for children — those with ratings of G, PG, or PG-13 — contained images of smoking.’

The full 36MB report, fact sheet and supporting materials are available at:

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