New Grant Targets Tobacco Use in Movies

St. Peter’s Health Partners (SPHP) has received a new grant to help get rid of smoking in movies – one of the few places where tobacco use continues to be portrayed positively.

This “Reinvent the Reel” grant, awarded by Trinity Health and Truth Initiative, aims to help raise awareness of the issue of smoking in movies and popular culture, and advocate for entertainment media companies to implement an R rating for movies with smoking.

Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities, a grant-funded program at SPHP, was one of 10 groups to receive a “Reinvent the Reel” grant. The $2,500 grant will support efforts to use social media and local events to educate and engage young people around the issue of tobacco use in movies.

Addressing the issue of smoking in movies is important because research has shown that exposure to smoking imagery in movies directly influences youth smoking behaviors. For example:

  • Exposure to onscreen smoking in movies can cause young people to start smoking — in fact, 44 percent of adolescents who start smoking do so because of smoking images they saw in the movies.
  • An R rating for movies with smoking would lead to an 18 percent decline in teen smoking.
  • Youth who are heavily exposed to onscreen smoking imagery are approximately two to three times as likely to begin smoking, compared with youth who are lightly exposed.

In addition to movies, tobacco use is an issue in other forms of entertainment. Reinvent the Reel grantees will also raise awareness of smoking in video games and TV streaming content. The Truth Initiative report “Played: Smoking and Video Games” found that tobacco use in video games is likely to promote youth smoking in similar ways as tobacco use in movies, and tobacco in any form of entertainment contributes to the perceived normalization of smoking.

The Reinvent the Reel program comes on the heels of a challenge from public health groups to entertainment studios to apply an R rating to movies with smoking by June 1, 2018. Only films that portray real people who used tobacco, such as in documentaries or biographical dramas, or that depict the negative health effects of tobacco use, should be exempt.

Click here to learn more about Reinvent the Reel.

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