Last month, I brought you news of the Harvard School of Public Health's proposed plan to take depictions of smoking out of movies marketed to young people. This February, Harvard and Johns Hopkins academics made a presentation on the matter to the MPAA, as well as executives from all the major studios. (You can read in-depth notes on the materials presented and view PowerPoint presentations from the meeting here). In 1999, a similar meeting had little to no impact. But times have changed, and today the HSPH's plan is being put into effect. Smoking will now affect movie ratings. It was just announced that the Motion Picture Association of America "is expanding its current consideration of teen smoking to all smoking when evaluating and assigning a movie rating."
Said Harvard School of Public Health Dean Barry R. Bloom at the meeting that brought the change about: "No one has died from hearing the f-word. But 438,000 people in U.S., and five million worldwide, die each year from tobacco-related illness. We appreciate that movies are expensive, complex and demanding to make. If you are honest I think you will admit that most smoking in movies is both unnecessary and cliched, and serves to make smoking socially acceptable to kids." The MPAA agrees, releasing a statement today saying: "In the past, illegal teen smoking has been a factor in the rating of films, alongside other parental concerns such as sex, violence and adult language. Now, all smoking will be considered, and depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating." I'm no fan of censorship, but I can agree that smoking should be held to the same standards as sex and violence. A kid's a lot more likely to start smoking than he is to blow up a building based on seeing it in a movie. What do you guys think?