Hollywood needs to butt out more often.

That was the message Monday from California lawmakers and researchers at a state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing who complained that increased use of tobacco in movies and on TV is sending a message to teenagers that it’s cool to smoke.

While Hollywood leaders agreed to discourage directors and writers from using gratuitous smoking, they were sensitive, as usual, to outsiders trying to have a say in their creative decisions.

“It would be a terrible mistake for government at any level to attempt to impose greater restrictions than now exist over what a film or television director is allowed to portray on the screen,” said Jack Shea, president of the Directors Guild of America.

Sen. John Burton (D-San Francisco) assured Shea that was not the case. He did suggest, however, that the industry show anti-smoking disclaimers during movie previews.

Studies “indicate young people who watch movies with smoking in their scenes come away with a favorable impression of cigarette smoking,” Burton said.

Fifty percent of the top-grossing films released between 1990 and 1996 depicted scenes in which a major character smokes a cigarette, according to research conducted by Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the U. of California, San Francisco. That’s an increase from 29% in the 1970s, he said.

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