WWW.SmokeFreeMovies.UCSF.EDU What? Apparently, UCSF Doesn’t Want CA to Subsidize Films that Depict Smoking

Did you know that the state of California subsidizes movie production Down Hollywood Way to the tune of $100,000,000 a year? Well, some people want the Sacramento to cut off this source of movie funding for films that depict smoking, that’s the news of the day.

Did The Social Network glamorize smoking as far as you remember? I don’t recall, but it will win a few Oscars on Sunday so it’s as good a target as any, I s’pose. Here’s the closest I could find to a still that has somebody smoking:

(Hey, why does California subsidize film production in the first place? Shouldn’t Jerry Brown or somebody cut off this kind of corporate welfare tout de suite?)

All the deets, here and after the jump:

California Health Experts Fault State’s $100 Million Movie Subsidy, Ask for Reform – L.A. County’s health chief and the chair of California’s expert committee on tobacco control want future film projects with smoking made ineligible for millions in California tax credits

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 23, 2011 — Should California taxpayers invest millions of dollars to prevent youth smoking, then hand millions to studios whose films promote youth smoking?

That’s the contradiction spotlighted in separate letters to the California Film Commission released today from Jonathan Fielding, MD, director of L.A. County’s Department of Public Health, and Michael Ong, MD, chair of the Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee, which is mandated by the legislature to guide state tobacco prevention efforts.

Dr. Fielding’s letter, dated January 14, notes that two recent Sony blockbusters, The Social Network and Burlesque, both rated PG-13 and featuring tobacco imagery, qualified for more than $12 million in California tax credits through a $100 million a year program that began its payouts on January 1, 2011. (The two films have grossed $135 million so far.) “Any benefit that tobacco-related subsidies for films might have for California’s interstate competitiveness must be balanced against proven, catastrophic ‘collateral damage’ to young audiences and long-term health costs to the state,” the letter says.

Dr. Ong’s letter, dated February 18, reports that “approximately 44 percent of adolescent smoking initiation can be attributed to exposure to onscreen smoking” and 100,000 high school students in California are currently smokers as a result of this exposure. “It is unconscionable that one state program threatens to undermine our state’s public health achievements and goals, our investment in tobacco prevention, and our savings in health care costs, particularly in a time of declining state revenues,” the letter says.

Both letters urge that future film projects with smoking be made ineligible for taxpayer subsidies in California. Similar reforms are advocated by health groups in New York, New Mexico, Ontario and British Columbia, all major sources of film production subsidies. In 2008, U.S. states granted an estimated $500 million in production subsidies to youth-rated films with smoking, rivaling the $518 million they will spend for tobacco prevention in 2011.

Also today, the Smoke Free Movies campaign based at University of California, San Francisco, published a full-page ad in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter noting that two-thirds of Oscar®-nominated films this year include smoking and forty percent of these are rated PG or PG-13. The ad centers on the new animated film Rango (Viacom: Paramount and Nickelodeon) opening March 4. Headline: “How many studio execs did it take to OK smoking in a ‘PG’ movie?” California already makes animated films ineligible for public subsidy. The ad can be seen at www.smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu/ourads/index.html.

SOURCE University of California, San Francisco, Smoke Free Movies Initiative

University of California, San Francisco, Smoke Free Movies Initiative

Smoke Free Movies has launched a series of print advertisements in Variety and other publications. This advertisement first ran in the February 23, 2011 editions of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

One in a series

How many studio execs did it take to OK smoking in a “PG” movie?

Image: Rango poster

Feature animation requires hundreds of people, millions of dollars, terabytes of computer graphics. In PG-rated Rango, opening March 4, all that hard work and ingenuity is used to blow smoke in the faces of families around the world.

What was Paramount thinking? The scientific evidence is undisputed: How much smoking kids see on screen, as early as grade-school, predicts if they will start smoking as teens. The exposure causes kids to smoke, says the National Cancer Institute.

In 2010, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the R-rating as an effective disincentive for smoking in the films kids see most. Four years ago today, at the MPAA’s own invitation, Harvard School of Public Health recommended that the studios “eliminate” smoking from movies accessible to children and teens.

So what’s the excuse this time? Does Rango show much smoking? Few PG films do. So why include it at all? It’s a bad guy who smokes? No excuse, either. The research finds that bad guys can have more influence than good guys on kids’ starting to smoke.

Sure, the MPAA gave Rango a fine-print “smoking” label. But Harvard warned the MPAA such labeling was “cynical,” comparing it to tobacco industry tactics.

Joe Camel meets the Marlboro Man. Rango isn’t the only movie with smoking. Twenty-one films nominated for Oscars® this Sunday happen to include smoking. More than 40 percent of them are rated PG or PG-13 (see table).

The good news? Movie smoking has dropped steadily in recent years, though it’s still higher than in the late 1990s. Many in the industry are making kid-rated films smokefree.

But as Rango suggests, only the R-rating can send the signal to every studio:

If you’re selling to kids, don’t sell them out.

Table: Oscar®-nominated films with smoking, 2010

Two-thirds of the 31 films nominated in feature-length, English-language, non-documentary Academy Award categories include smoking. The ten highest-grossing movies on this list delivered 4.7 billion tobacco impressions to audiences. PG and PG-13 films delivered 58% of that total.

Smoke Free Movies


Smoking in movies kills in real life. Smoke Free Movie policies —the R-rating, certification of no payoffs, anti-tobacco spots and an end to brand display — are endorsed by the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, AMA Alliance, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, American Public Health Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Legacy, LA County Dept. of Health Services, New York State Dept. of Health, New York State PTA, and many others. Visit our web site or write: Smoke Free Movies, UCSF School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390.

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