An R for Smoking

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Health groups: Movies with smoking should be rated R | American Academy of Pediatrics

Antismoking activists have long contended that such a move would save lives by reducing the number of young smokers. But judicial interference might also crack the ratings system wide open, exposing it to similar challenges by those who would like to see tougher ratings for portrayals of gun violence or drug use.

Key decisions are still months away.

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But the Forsyth suit, currently just a skirmish in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, has the look of a future battle royale — perhaps the biggest since , when Jack Valenti, then president of the motion picture association, established the voluntary ratings system with an eye toward keeping the courts and lawmakers away. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work.

Make tomorrow's kid-rated movies smokefree and save one million lives

Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional. The demand is in response to a recent report by the U.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found there has been no progress in reducing the number of tobacco scenes in youth-rated movies. In , the U. Surgeon General established a cause-and-effect link between smoking in movies and the likelihood kids would pick up the deadly habit.

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The MPAA's position doesn't go far enough to address the seriousness of smoking among young people, says Fiore, noting that a U. Surgeon General's report published in March concluded that smoking in movies is one of the causes of youth smoking. Kids under the age of 18 are particularly vulnerable to images of high-wattage stars smoking cigarettes on the big screen, partly because adolescents, similar to very young children, are prone to mimic behaviors they see others trying, Sargent says.

When they see people [smoking a cigarette], they think this might make them look cool. As they become more convinced there's something in it for them, they become more likely to try it.

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PG movies seem to be especially problematic. In the study, the relative handful of smoking scenes in G- or PG-rated movies didn't appear to influence a child's likelihood of trying cigarettes.

Senators urge MPAA to assign R rating to movies with smoking

A second study in the same issue of Pediatrics reached a similar conclusion. That study, which looked at 8- to year-old children in the Netherlands and was also coauthored by Sargent, found that minute clips from a cartoon and family film depicting smoking had no measurable impact on the kids' beliefs about smoking.

Portrayals of smoking in kid-oriented movies tend to be less than realistic and are probably a weaker influence on tween and teen behavior than smoking in films geared toward older audiences, Sargent says.

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