Smoking in the Movies

Enjoying a Movie in a Smokefree Theater

Movies Promoting Tobacco Use

The tobacco industry has a long history of promoting smoking and tobacco use on TV and movie screens. From the 1920s to 1950s, tobacco companies collaborated with film studios to place their products on screen, and they even paid movie stars to appear in cigarette advertising campaigns. In fact, for nearly a decade, two out of three top movie stars advertised cigarettes while also smoking on screen.

On-screen cigarette advertising was also seen in the late 1950s and early 1960s when tobacco companies bought and sponsored their own TV programs. But tobacco industry marketing shifted back to the big screen when cigarette advertising was banned from TV and radio in 1970.

Today, these cross-promotional deals between film and tobacco industries have been restricted. Yet smoking in the movies still exists, and it’s recruiting new teen smokers every day. Population surveys, real-world studies and experimental evidence have proven that kids are more likely to smoke when they see tobacco use on screen. Smoking behaviors in the movies are mirrored by young audiences, putting them at substantial risk of addiction, disease and premature death.

Several strategies exist that could help reduce youth exposure to tobacco in the movies. One incorporates airing messaging that discourages tobacco use before a movie starts. But the most effective method lies in the hands of the film industry. They can update policies to reduce tobacco content in films, or update their current rating system. Giving an R rating to more movies with smoking would be expected to reduce the number of teen smokers by nearly 18%.

Did You Know?

Because of exposure to smoking in the movies, 6.4 million children alive today will become smokers, and 2 million of them will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases.