Movies: R Rating for Smoking?

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116
Movies: R Rating for Smoking?

Should a movie get an automatic R Rating if it includes showing someone smoking?

Movies that show actors smoking tobacco should automatically earn an R rating in order to minimize copycat smoking among impressionable tweens and teenagers, the authors of a new study suggest.

PG-13 films account for nearly two-thirds of the smoking scenes adolescents see on the big screen, according to the two-year study, which surveyed roughly 5,000 children ages 10 to 14 about the movies they'd seen and whether they'd ever tried a cigarette.

Smoking in PG-13 films -- including background shots and other passing instances -- was just as strongly linked with real-world experimentation as the smoking in R-rated films. For every 500 smoking scenes a child saw in PG-13 movies, his or her likelihood of trying cigarettes increased by 49%. The comparable figure for R-rated movies was 33%, a statistically negligible difference.

Assigning an R rating to all movies portraying smoking would lower the proportion of kids who try cigarettes at this age by 18%, the authors estimate. (Children under 17 must be accompanied by an adult to buy a ticket for an R-rated movie.)

"The movie industry [should] treat smoking like it treats profanity and sex and violence," says lead author Dr. James D. Sargent, a cancer-prevention specialist and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School, in Lebanon, New Hampshire. "If saying the 'F' word twice gets you an R rating, certainly something as important as smoking should get you an R rating."

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Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I get what they are trying to do but I don't agree with it. Unless they are targeting all bad habits I think it is overkill. Someone smoking in the background is just crazy to me to change a rating from PG-13 to R.

I do wish that movies that are available for young children to go in without a parent wouldn't glamorize things like smoking, binge drinking etc. though.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

I don't see any need to change the rating system. Smoking is considered along with other things like sex, nudity, language, and violence, and the context of all of those things, in determining a film's rating. I don't think one cigarette in a background scene (perhaps set in a nightclub? or in the 1950s?) should have more weight than everything else. And honestly, I'd rather have my kid see someone smoking when it's in character and relevant to the scene, than to see gratuitous violence. We can talk later about the bad decisions the character made, relate them to real life (my dad is an admittedly-addicted smoker & my kids don't like how he smells) and talk about the health effects.

Which makes me wonder where the parents are in this statistic from the article: For every 500 smoking scenes a child saw in PG-13 movies, his or her likelihood of trying cigarettes increased by 49%. Let's say that every single PG-13 movie that child sees has five scenes with a cigarette; that means that this child sees a PG-13 movie every single week for two years. That's a lot of movies, and a lot of PG-13 movies, which probably equates to a lot of hours that the child is spending without adult supervision. If the risk of smoking increases as a result of viewing movie smoking, it seems to me that those parents aren't doing much to either filter their children's movie viewing, or to negate the messages in those movies. And I don't think we should legislate things that common-sense parenting can deal with.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

Let me get this straight: Having someone smoking in a movie can get you a PG-13, but 2 F-bombs and it's an R?

I would rather have my children experiment with the F-bomb than smoking.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3187

I think that's ridiculous. For every 500 smoking scenes, the chance of smoking increases to 49%? That's hardly a convincing statistic.

A few weeks ago someone at work told me he got excited when he realized his kids were old enough to watch Ghostbusters. I said I thought that was a great idea and hadn't thought of it before. He said it turned out to be a bad idea because of the sexual conversation, the bad language, the scary scenes, and the smoking.

Well I decided he was wrong and I showed (8-year-old) Nathaniel the movie, we watched it together. He thought it was hilarious. The scary scenes were funny, the sex talk (or anything that appears sexual) he just shuts out because he has no interest, the language is a non-issue as he knows that there is language that's inappropriate at school, in public, in anger, etc., and the smoking? He just thinks smoking is stupid.

For me, violence is the big issue, and sexual exploitation. Smoking, no...if a movie is PG in all other respects then leave it alone.