Anti-smoking group slams MPAA

AFL calls ratings factor 'empty policy'

WASHINGTON — Pointing to a study showing a direct link between onscreen smoking and teen smoking, the anti-tobacco American Legacy Foundation labeled the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s May addition of smoking as a factor in ratings an “empty policy.”

Study, published this week in the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, “is the first national study to indicate that exposure to smoking in movies predicts whether young people will become lifelong smokers,” ALF prexy-chief Cheryl G. Healton said in a statement.

Healton said the study shows that teens who see smoking in movies double their risk of becoming established smokers.

“Smoking in movies continues to influence American youth to become addicted to one of the most deadly products legally available for consumption,” Healton said.

“Earlier in the spring, the MPAA announced a new ratings clarification to consider smoking as a factor when it rates movies, but the action failed to address the concerns of major public health groups and parents nationwide,” she continued. “We have seen the results of this empty policy; the first movie, ‘Hairspray,’ was tagged with a PG ratings descriptor to include ‘momentary teen smoking.’ These MPAA actions will have little impact on youth exposure to movie smoking.”

The study was conducted by Dr. James Sargent at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., and funded in part by ALF. The National Cancer Institute also contributed funding.

ALF continues to advocate for giving an R rating to any movie with smoking, “with the exception of when tobacco use and its dangers and consequences are accurately portrayed or when it is necessary to portray a real historical figure.”

Disney and Universal have already pledged to reduce or eliminate smoking in films, and the industry at large has been promoting smoking awareness among its members.

An MPAA spokesman responded by pointing out that the ratings system is intended solely to give information to parents about a movie’s content and is not an agent of social change.

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