Statement on Inclusion of Smoking in Film Ratings
For immediate release: May 10, 2007
Boston, MA -- Statement from Dean Barry R. Bloom regarding the announcement today by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Chairman Dan Glickman on behalf of the Rating Board:
"The addition of tobacco smoking as a factor in determining a movie's rating marks an historic and important step by the film industry to protect children and adolescents from one of the most significant health concerns our nation and our children face today. By placing smoking on a par with considerations of violence and sex, the Rating Board has acknowledged the public health dangers to children associated with glamorized images of a toxic and lethal addiction to tobacco. The ratings will now reflect important information for parents' consideration.
Harvard School of Public Health has worked closely with the MPAA on this issue for over a year and has urged the industry to do more to use its power to reduce the levels of smoking in film. The important steps announced by the MPAA and Rating Board today are hopefully just the first ones the film companies will take toward the public health goal of eliminating the depiction of tobacco smoking from youth-accessible films altogether."
From the perspective of public health, tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 438,000 people in the U.S. and 5 million worldwide die prematurely each year from tobacco-related disease.
In a scientific briefing requested by Chairman Dan Glickman of the MPAA, on February 23, 2007 Harvard School of Public Health brought together scientific experts to present evidence on the health impact of youth smoking and the influence of films that depict tobacco use on youth behavior
The presentations can be accessed at www.hsph.harvard.edu/mpaa/.
Dean Barry R. Bloom and colleagues, Jay A. Winsten from the Harvard School of Public Health, and Professor Jonathan Samet of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, reviewed for film industry representatives scientific evidence that established that nicotine is among the most addictive substances known-comparable to heroin and crack cocaine-and summarized the compelling body of evidence that smoking is harmful to the health of children, youths, and adults. Most significantly, Bloom pointed out that the mean age for initiating smoking in the United States is just 13 years, and that careful population studies demonstrate that if an individual does not start to smoke between ages 12 and 24, he or she runs only about a five to ten percent lifetime risk of ever smoking. Tellingly, about a third of all movie viewers are between the ages of 12 and 24. Thus the industry, and popular film stars who smoke, capture the attention of young people at precisely the most crucial time in their lives for resisting tobacco initiation.
The presentations summarized the scientific basis for the recommendation of Dean Barry R. Bloom that the MPAA "take substantive and effective action to eliminate the depiction of tobacco smoking from films accessible to children and youths."
The MPAA statements on ratings and smoking are available at: http://www.mpaa.org/newsStand.asp
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Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 300 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 900-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children's health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information on the school visit: www.hsph.harvard.edu