Over half of the top-grossing films in Ontario in the past 16 years featured smoking, and most of these movies were rated as acceptable for youth, reports a new study.
Since 2002, Adult Accompaniment (AA) or 14A rated movies have delivered 5.7 billion tobacco images to Ontario moviegoers three times as many as 18A or R-rated movies delivered in the same period, according to the report, released July 23.
The report's authors estimate that exposure to on-screen smoking will encourage 185,000 youth 17 or younger to become smokers, resulting in $1.1 billion in additional health-care costs over their lifetimes.
Movies are a powerful vehicle for promoting tobacco use. The tobacco industry has a well-documented history of collaboration with Hollywood to promote smoking in movies -- including payment for the placement of tobacco products in movies.
"A substantial body of scientific evidence indicates that exposure to smoking in movies is a cause of smoking initiation and progression to regular smoking among youth," said Donna Kosmack Co-Chair of the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies. "Exposure to onscreen tobacco undermines tobacco prevention efforts."
According to recent polling by Ipsos, 78 percent of Ontarians support not allowing smoking in movies rated G, PG, and 14A - an increase from 73 percent in 2011.
"There is a straightforward way to fix the problem, and that's an amendment of the regulations under the provincial Film Classification Act that would require all movies with smoking shown in Ontario to be rated 18A," said Michael Perley of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco.
"The people of Ontario support action to protect kids from the normalization of smoking," said Liz Scanlon, Senior Manager of Public Affairs, Ontario, for Heart & Stroke.
Thousands of Ontarians have signed petitions that support action to reduce exposure to smoking in youth-rated films released in Ontario. These petitions have been read into the Legislature's record by nearly two dozen MPPs from the three major parties.