Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Greg Stumbo Asks Movie Studios to Heed Harvard’s Advice to End Depictions of Smoking in Movies
Attorney General Greg Stumbo announced today that he has joined Attorneys General from across the country in asking Hollywood’s major motion picture studios to take the advice sought by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) from the Harvard School of Public Health on how to address the issue of smoking in movies and its impact on children: remove smoking depictions from films accessible to children.
Attorney General Stumbo’s letter is prompted by Harvard’s recent disclosure of the unequivocal recommendation it made in a closed meeting in February to the MPAA and its member companies, along with the Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and the National Association of Theatre Owners.
“After years of letters and meetings, the MPAA told the Attorneys General last October that it was going to determine how to address the issue of smoking in movies and its impact on youth smoking by seeking, for its member companies, the recommendations of the renowned experts at Harvard,” said Stumbo. “Harvard has now told the MPAA and the studios how they can help prevent kids from smoking – eliminate depiction of smoking from films seen by children. We are counting on the MPAA and its studios to follow the advice they sought.”
As early as August 2003, citing compelling scientific evidence that viewing smoking in movies promotes youth smoking initiation, as many as 41 Attorneys General have sought the cooperation of the movie industry in reducing youth smoking initiation by eliminating tobacco brand appearances in movies, by reducing or eliminating depictions of smoking in movies, and by airing anti-smoking public service announcements. The Harvard presentation, made by Dean Barry Bloom, Associate Dean Jay Winsten and Dr. Jonathan Samet, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, strongly confirmed the evidence the movie industry previously heard from the Attorneys General.
Attorney General Stumbo’s letter notes that, in light of this research, each time a studio releases a movie that depicts smoking, it does so with knowledge of the harm it will bring to children who watch it. “This is particularly disturbing given that three-quarters of PG-13 movies and more than one-third of G and PG movies depicted smoking,” Stumbo added.
Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Nine out of every ten current adult smokers began smoking as teens.
Attorney General Stumbo’s letter was sent to MPAA member companies The Walt Disney Studios, Fox Filmed Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal Studios, and Paramount Pictures. The letter was also sent to independent movie studios Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company. To date, The Weinstein Company is the only movie studio to agree to insert American Legacy Foundation truth® anti-smoking messages in DVD movies that depict smoking, as requested by the Attorneys General in September 2006.
The Harvard presentation is available at www.hsph.harvard.edu/mpaa/