×
SPONSORED

Thank You for Not Smoking: How Big Tobacco Gets Free Advertising On and Off the Red Carpet

A plush red carpet, an extravagant display of haute couture fashion, and a thick haze of tobacco smoke — people following last year’s Met Gala on social media may have thought they were seeing colorized images from decades past when celebrities smoked cigarettes with disregard, and perhaps ignorance, to the consequences of tobacco.

At the 2017 Met Gala, A-list attendees were seen lighting up in the bathroom and posting photos on their social media channels. This event highlighted how celebrities can unwittingly become marketers for Big Tobacco, and it didn’t go unnoticed. The actions these stars took (which, incidentally, violated New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act) provoked an uproar and prompted health officials to express concern about the effect such images can have on young fans.

The fact is, 99% of all smokers begin by the age of 26 — and in the U.S., nearly 90% start smoking before they even turn 18.

The non-profit Truth Initiative, the public health organization behind truth, the youth smoking prevention campaign credited with preventing more than 300,000 U.S. youth and young adults from becoming smokers during 2015-2016, has been fighting Big Tobacco for years.

The organization explains that by posting pictures of themselves smoking, celebrities inadvertently become spokespersons for the tobacco industry and promote use to their young fans. Every “like” or “share” of these smoking images is a big “thumbs up” for Big Tobacco, re-normalizing and glamorizing this deadly addiction.

This puts the onus on stars to speak out against the proliferation of tobacco imagery both on the big screen and on social media. Truth Initiative believes these images serve as free advertising for Big Tobacco, an industry that already spends more than $8 billion a year marketing these products to consumers.

The red carpet isn’t the only platform for tobacco imagery; research shows that whether in movies, streaming platforms, or video games, smoking imagery can have a dangerous impact on vulnerable young viewers.

According to published studies, 37% of new youth smoking in the United States can be attributed to exposure to images of smoking in movies. Furthermore, young people who are heavily exposed to tobacco imagery in film are two times more likely to begin smoking than those who aren’t consuming this sort of media.

Even hit streaming shows like “Stranger Things,” “House of Cards,” and “Orange Is the New Black” depict smoking prominently. For example, according to the Truth Initiative report “While you were streaming,” “Stranger Things” included 182 tobacco incidents in the 2016 season.

Both celebrities and fans can accidentally wind up marketing smoking to young social media users, which is why truth created the erase and replace tool, allowing users to replace the cigarettes in photos with something more positive. Users can upload an image, rotate and position it for maximum impact, then choose a mouth, body, hand, head, or random cartoon to put in place of the cigarette. Resize or flip it at will, and you have an image you can spread far and wide on social media to help eradicate smoking from the web.

Despite the drastic decline in smoking rates, tobacco is still the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. Truth Initiative believes that by eradicating Big Tobacco from the entertainment industry — whether on social media, television shows, movies, or video games — this can be the generation to end tobacco use once and for all.

This article is presented by Truth Initiative

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Amazon Music

    Amazon Music Unveils HD: the ‘Highest Quality Audio’ for Streaming

    Amazon Music today became the first of the three major streaming services to offer high-definition sound with the launch of Amazon Music HD. According to the announcement, the service offers a new tier of high quality, lossless audio with more than 50 million songs in High Definition, and millions of songs in Ultra High Definition, which it claims [...]

  • Sony Corp USA Building Placeholder Logo

    Sony Rejects Breakup Proposal From Dan Loeb

    Sony has rejected the corporate breakup proposal that it received three months ago from activist investor Dan Loeb and his Third Point Capital. Loeb, who in June built up a $1.5 billion stake in the company, had called on Sony to divest its image-sensors business in order to focus more on entertainment, release value and [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    CBS Credit Union Manager Sentenced to 14 Years for $40 Million Fraud

    Edward Rostohar, the longtime manager of the CBS Employees Federal Credit Union, was sentenced on Monday to 14 years in prison for embezzling $40 million. The massive fraud left the credit union insolvent. It was shuttered and taken over by the University Credit Union, which assumed the accounts of 2,800 members. Rostohar pleaded guilty in [...]

  • United Talent Agency Reveals New Logo

    UTA Unveils New Logo, Corporate Image

    UTA raised the curtain Monday on a new corporate logo. The three-dimensional image is meant to emphasize the talent agency’s focus on uniting ideas, opportunities and talent. Building signage with the new logo will go up next month at UTA’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. “Our new identity captures the multiple facets and intersections of our [...]

  • Tribune Tower

    FCC Approves Nexstar Acquisition of Tribune Media

    The FCC has voted to approve Nexstar’s $4.1 billion takeover of Tribune Media, paving the way for Nexstar to become the nation’s largest owner of television stations with more than 200 outlets serving a wide swath of the country. FCC commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the merger agreement that was reached in December. Nexstar’s pact [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content