Internal tobacco industry documents show that tobacco companies often paid movie studios for product placement in films, but by the 1990s many in Hollywood said this practice had ended. We disagreed, and in 1997 launched our Hollywood on Tobacco HOT) project (funded by the then California Department of Health Services, Tobacco Control Section) to document if the practice was still occurring. We conducted an ethnographic study -- a study conducted from the point of view of people within the target culture -- which was one of the first projects on this subject to seek input directly from writers, actors, and directors. Key findings were presented in a peer-reviewed journal article "Hollywood on Tobacco: How the Entertainment Industry Understand Tobacco Portrayal" and a documentary which showed how the culture of the film industry affects the inclusion and portrayal of tobacco products in film and on television. Not surprisingly, everyone interviewed denied paid tobacco placement was still occurring and blamed someone else for smoking in films.
After HOT ended, Dr. Stanton Glantz began his Smokefree Movies campaign which seeks to achieve four key principles, including the establishment of an R rating for films that depict smoking - unless the smoking is by a historical character who smoked. There is a very large body of research that documents the influence of smoking in films on youth experimentation and uptake of smoking, the use of movies to glamorize and popularize smoking again, and influence of product placement on attitudes toward smoking and smokers. Several national and international organizations, including Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR), the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have endorsed the Smokefree Movies' principles. Has your organization or group endorsed these principles?
And the public supports the idea as well; 81% of U.S. adults agree that adolescents are more likely to smoke if they watch actors smoke in movies, and 70% support a new R-rating for any movies with on-screen tobacco imagery, unless the file clearly demonstrates the dangers of smoking.
Too bad Hollywood is still creating a smoke screen. While the Smokefree Movies campaign is making progress, we have yet to see the four principles adopted by the film making industry.