Major media companies are under pressure from shareholders to eliminate cigarette smoking that young people see in movies. Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. and data shows that smoking and tobacco imagery in youth-friendly movies is the biggest contributor to initiation of smoking among youth. As You Sow, in collaboration with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility has filed shareholder resolutions with the Walt Disney Company and Viacom (parent of Paramount) asking to report on the public health impacts of smoking in its youth rated movies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that giving an R rating to movies with smoking could reduce the number of teen smokers by 18% and prevent over 1,000,000 deaths from smoking among U.S. children alive today. The causal link between smoking in youth-rated movies and teen tobacco use was established by peer-reviewed research in a 2012 report from the U.S. Surgeon General. According to a letter from 38 state’s Attorney General to Hollywood Studios, “Each time the industry releases another movie that depicts smoking, it does so with the full knowledge of the harm it will bring children who watch it.”