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Why smoking should only be in R-rated movies

Iggy Pop, left, and Tom Waits hang out in “Coffee and Cigarettes,” a movie was used in an experiment that studied smoking.
Iggy Pop, left, and Tom Waits hang out in “Coffee and Cigarettes,” a movie was used in an experiment that studied smoking. United Artists via AP

Most adults who smoke started as teens, and it’s very difficult to quit due to nicotine addiction.

The best solution is to prevent children and teens from starting to smoke in the first place, but federal health officials say that exposure to on-screen smoking will lead more than 6 million children to start smoking. Two million will die prematurely from tobacco-induced cancer, heart disease, lung disease or stroke.

 
Opinion

That’s why a coalition of 17 health and medical groups signed a letter to film industry leaders recently demanding that they give an R rating to all films that have depictions of smoking or tobacco. These groups include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Cancer Society and American Heart Association.

By voluntarily requiring an R rating for movies with smoking, the film industry can prevent 1 million tobacco deaths among today’s children, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Surgeon General concluded that the depiction of smoking in youth-rated movies (G, PG, PG-13) causes many young people to start smoking. And the more smoking young people see in movies, the more likely they are to begin smoking.

In July, the CDC released a report analyzing data collected over the past 20 years by Breathe California Sacramento Region through its youth activism program. The report concludes that since 2010 there has been no progress in reducing the number of tobacco incidents in youth-rated movies. The film industry continues to ignore the link between role models smoking on-screen and increased rates of tobacco use among youths.

Giving films with smoking an R rating is the most effective and cost-efficient way to stop our kids from starting to smoke.

Gordon Garcia is co-chairman of the Breathe California Sacramento Region Lung Health Collaborative. David Modisette is CEO. Both can be contacted at DModisette@SacBreathe.org.

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