Last August, the American Heart Association and 16 other health and medical groups bought trade ads and sent a letter to the six major movie studios represented by the Motion Picture Association of America, urging them to apply an R rating to any
motion picture with tobacco imagery submitted for classification after Friday. The only exceptions would be biographical films about people who smoked or when the film depicted the dangers of smoking.
But with the June deadline here, Chris Ortman, vice president of corporate communications for the MPAA, declined to comment.
Health campaigners always seem to think that their pet issue is the most important thing in the world and to hell with any other opinion. If R ratings are doled out indiscriminately, parents will simply lose faith with the ratings and ignore
them. Film ratings need credibility so if parents see examples like 101 Dalmatians being R rated, they will soon concur that R ratings can safely be ignored.
Seven U.S. senators sent a letter on Monday to the MPAA to take action to restrict depictions of smoking, including e-cigarette use, in youth-rated movies.
The letter, citing a University of California, San Francisco study claiming that nearly six in 10 PG-13 movies depict tobacco use. The senators wrote:
Although the evidence connecting smoking imagery to youth smoking initiation is strong, MPAA has yet to take meaningful action to discourage tobacco imagery in films or effectively warn viewers and parents of tobacco's presence in a movie. Our
nation's dramatic decline in youth tobacco use is a tremendous achievement, but on-screen depictions remain a threat to this progress and threaten to re-normalize tobacco use in our society. We cannot afford to lose any ground in this area.
US film censors, the Motion Picture Association of America, the major studios, and the National Association of Theatre Owners are the targets of a proposed class action lawsuit that if accepted by judge and not barred by the First Amendment,
calls for all movies to be rated at least R if they feature tobacco imagery.
The lawsuit claims that since at least 2003, Hollywood has known that tobacco imagery in films rated G, PG, and PG-13, is one of the major causes of children becoming addicted to nicotine. Disney, Paramount, Sony, Fox,
Universal and Warner Bros. are said to have been given recommendations from health experts at leading universities throughout the country as well as the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Public Health
Association, and yet are allegedly continuing to stamp their seal of approval on films meant for children that feature tobacco imagery.
Among the films cited are Spectre , Dumb and Dumber To , Transformers: Age of Extinction , X-Men: Days of Future Past , The Amazing Spider Man 2 , The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug , Iron Man 3, Men in Black 3 and The Woman in Black .
The lawsuit demands a declaratory judgment that the industry's film ratings practices amount are negligent, false and misleading and a breach of fiduciary and statutory duties. The lawsuit also aims for an injunction where no films featuring
tobacco imagery can be given G, PG or PG-13 ratings.
The MPAA representing Hollywood's major studios along with theatre owners are contesting a lawsuit ludicrously calling for an R rating for children's movies that depict smoking.
The MPAA notes that it doesn't want to be held hostage to any misguided morality play that seeks to force them not to have any movies with tobacco imagery rated G, PG or PG-13.
Court papers have been filed asking a judge to reject a putative class action that blames them for children becoming addicted to nicotine.
Anti-smoking campaigners have flagged such films as Dumb and Dumber To , Transformers: Age of Extinction and Iron Man 3 as among those featuring tobacco-related imagery that are being seen by young audiences.
The Hollywood defendants warned the judge that, soon, they might be forced to give R ratings to all films that depict alcohol use, gambling, contact sports, bullying, consumption of soda or fatty foods, or high-speed driving.
David Lowery, the director of the new Disney live-action remake of Pete's Dragon has been interviewed by
aintitcool.com . He spoke of a new contractual clause with Disney that prohibits the inclusion of scenes depicting tobacco smoking. He said:
And you can't have smoking anymore! The scene in that movie that had the biggest impact to me was Pinocchio smoking a cigar and turning red. When you sign a contract with Disney, the things it says your film cannot have are beheadings,
impalement or smoking. Those are literally the three things you are not allowed to put into a Disney film.
...But yeah, they literally have those words in the contract as things you're not allowed to do and that rules out Pinocchio , which has the smoking.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAAP and the National Association of Theatre Owners have come out victorious in a lawsuit that ludicrously claimed that tobacco imagery in films rated G, PG or PG-13 causes 200,000 children every year
to become cigarette smokers and 64,000 people to die as a result.
Now U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg dismissed an attempt to hold major film studios and theater owners legally responsible.
The legal action by Timothy Forsyth claimed that the industry's film-ratings practices amounted to negligence, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, false advertising, unfair competition and nuisance.
In response, Hollywood argued that ratings merely reflect opinions about what's suitable for children and compelling them to give R ratings to anything found socially unacceptable could apply to films depicting activity like alcohol use,
gambling, contact sports, high-speed driving and so forth.
The judge wrote:
Forsyth insists that a rating less stringent than R is a representation that 'the film is suitable for children under seventeen unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. The ratings plainly make no such representations. Rather, the PG and PG-13
ratings caution parents that material in such movies may be inappropriate for children. More fundamentally, the ratings reflect the consensus opinion of CARA board members. As such, neither intentional nor negligent misrepresentation claims are
tenable as pleaded.
The judge also noted that Forsyth also failed to prove his other claims.
A trio of US senators want info and answers from a range of media companies--broadcast, cable, satellite and over-the-top--about what role the entertainment industry plays in promoting youth tobacco use, suggesting ratings should include tobacco
use identifiers and any TV show showing tobacco be rated TV-MA and any movie get an R rating.
Democratic Senators. Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Van Hollen sent the letters, saying that youth media consumption and the anywhere, anytime model of film and TV distribution as changed traditional boundaries among media:
We are concerned that this new landscape across cable, satellite, streaming and traditional broadcast television provides a variety of viewing realms in which to foster the causal link between exposure to, and initiation of, smoking.
They argued that both the TV and movie ratings should include a smoking depiction warning. Both film and television continue to expose children and adolescents to tobacco content conclusively provide to cause physical harm to young viewers. In
particular they want the reactions of media companies to their recommendations:
to rate all future content containing tobacco portrayals TV-MA on TV and R on film;
that the production had no tobacco product placement;
that strong anti-smoking Public Service Announcements will run immediately before any TV show or film with tobacco use;
that they end promotional material with smoking depictions.
From chain-smoking time traveller Nadia in Russian Doll , to frazzled single mom Joyce Byers rarely seen without a pack in her shaking hands in Stranger Things , Netflix's characters love to smoke. But that looks set to change.
Anti smoking campaigners, the Truth Initiative, published campaign material noting that Stranger Things was among the programs that showed most smoking on screen. Other series that featured were Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Orange Is
The New Black.
Netflix is now vowing to curtail the appearance of cigarettes on screen in all its new projects. In a statement to Variety, Netflix pledged to make all their programming aimed at young people -- anything with a rating below PG-13 or TV-14 --
smoking and e-cigarette free, except for reasons of historical and factual accuracy. Meanwhile, for their content aimed at older viewers, there will be no smoking or e-cigarette use unless it's either essential or character-defining.