This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By Luis O. Victoria
I recall many years ago that going to the drive-in movies with my parents was almost a weekend agenda. An agenda that all in my family loved. Those were the times of the double feature presentation with an intermission showing a short flick or cartoon and of course many, many commercials. One of those commercials I still remember… the Marlboro Man. What a thrill… horses galloping across the plains and the river, the cowboys so gallantly mounting them and of course, the man, the Marlboro Man, the one lighting up and taking a full smoke to the end of his lungs. What a character… he without a doubt, represented everything that at that age I wanted to be; adventurous, strong, confident and free. Many years have passed since the government banned all cigarette commercials from television, movies and even billboards. Then it came the smoking ban on airplanes, public places and so on. It has certainly been a difficult time for the tobacco industry to promote itself, but how is it still thriving; and advertising? I’m absolutely certain that such a powerful industry has found many ways to get across these limitations, but definitely indirect advertising through Hollywood and celebrities is one of them. Any time Julia Roberts, Sean Penn or John Travolta light up you can only imagine what goes into a teenager’s mind. I’m sure we can speculate about it a lot but what we can’t deny is that it definitely causes an impression that can range from acceptance to admiration, especially when we are talking about role models or heroes. Role models represent an
image of what is acceptable and desirable to most individuals, and when it comes to kids and teenagers who are defining their character, this image can be very strong in determining their future way of thinking and behavior. “A Dartmouth University study indicates that kids are 16 times more likely to smoke if their favorite actor smokes” (Morgan 1). The American Lung Association believes that celebrities who smoke on and off films are part of the cause of the rise in teenagers smoking numbers (Rowley 3). Not everybody shares this point of view. Certainly a number of parents, doctors, teachers and politicians can have a different way to look at this problem than some actors in the film industry. For the latter when they hear about banning, regulation, and movie rating, the word censorship comes to play. Freedom of expression is their ultimate defense along with the claim that cigarette smoking in acting helps in character building and depicts real life situations. The critics to this point of view express that it doesn’t depict reality as in real life because the smoking related illnesses and conditions are rarely represented in the movies compared to its counterpart; the smoking glamour. The cigarette industry vehemently denies any hidden agenda with Hollywood and claims that its marketing campaigns do not target minors. It also claims that for adults, smoking is a matter of individual choice and the government should not interfere with personal freedom. Other advocates also point out the fundamental right the cigarette makers have to advertise its legitimate business. However, in the past 80 years the marriage between Hollywood and tobacco has been more than obvious; 1 John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown, Superman II, James Bond and specifically Sylvester Stallone’s infamous letters with the cigarette makers, speak for themselves. A 1983 Stallone’s letter reads “I guarantee that I will use Brown and
Williamson tobacco products in no less than five feature films. “It is my understanding that Brown and Williamson will pay a fee of $500,000.”(qtd. in “Hollywood attacks” 1). ‘Titanic’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s smoking scenes reached an audience of 75 million ticket buyers in the U.S. and tens of millions more overseas. Based on comparable TV ad rates alone, it was worth at least $5 million to the tobacco industry’ (“If Hollywood” 1). It wouldn’t be objective to pretend that every single actor who smokes in a Hollywood movie has been paid to do so, but evidence has proven that this has occurred in the past (i.e. Tobacco companies paid $350,000 to place Larks on a James Bond film and $42,000 to place Marlboro on Superman II) and records show that it might be happening now; not necessarily in terms of a straight cash deal but by the clout that tobacco owned top advertiser brands like Kraft, Nabisco or Miller have over ad-hungry newspapers, magazines and broadcast companies owned by the same conglomerates that control the big studios (“If Hollywood” 1).2 Recent studies show that in the last 10 years there have been increases on smoking related scenes compared to the years before. According to UCSF, 77 percent of the movies made in 1996 had at least one tobacco related scene compared to half on the ones made between 1990 and 1995 and a mere 29 percent in 1970’s (Rowley 1). ‘A separate Dartmouth University study also shows that about 87% of the top grossing films from 1988 to 1997 showed tobacco use and that in 20 of those movies identifiable brand names were used by actors’ (“Hollywood smoke” 1). ‘According to documents on the SmokeFreeMovies site, as recently as 1991, R.J. Reynolds was paying the Hollywood PR firm Rogers and Cowan $12,500 a month to provide free cigarettes to a slew of film productions as well as an elite list of stars and
industry leaders’ (Goldstein 1). All of these strongly indicates that the 1989 Big Tobacco voluntary ban on product placement and pay offs in movies has not been taken seriously. In 1989 after a series of Congressional hearings the cigarette industry voluntarily agreed to restrain tobacco product placement and pay-offs in films, it did so again in 1998 after a multi-state tobacco settlement. ‘According to a U.S. PIRG report after the 1998 agreement, tobacco use in the most popular youth-oriented movies had increased by 50 percent’ (“Tobacco” 1). While nationwide cigarette smoking is decreasing (From 42.2% in 1964 to 25% of adults in 1994) smoking in Hollywood movies is increasing; certainly a great way to portrait realism. The debate is still on and some people are calling for action to take place. Several groups support including movies with smoking scenes into a special rating to regulate and limit the impact of indirect advertising in movies among other things.3 Others simply propose a total ban of cigarette smoking scenes in movies as well as any other type of promotional venture within the industry. It’s certain that freedom of expression is an intricate part of American culture and an actor’s choice to smoke in a movie is the legitimate exercise of that freedom. It is also certain that as long as any movie scene represents an honest intent to a real life depiction or artistic expression can be considered neither unhealthy nor immoral. The response of any democratic society should never contemplate banning social behavior from the movies or any kind of artistic expression simply because we do not agree with it or know it can be harmful to us (lets then ban drugs, alcohol consumption and violence from the movies). What is questionable here is the manipulation and intention behind glamorizing smoking scenes to misinform and deceive the vulnerable young minds of our society. The
Tobacco industry and Hollywood know very well about the risks of cigarette smoking. They also know it’s a proven fact that smoking kills more than 435,000 Americans per year, creates dependency and a long list of health related problems. When all of this is denied and turned into a positive message of “cool” or “sexy” for a personal gain; by accepting it, we are violating our share of responsibility to ourselves and to the rest of our society. There is no question that the image of role models smoking in movies, magazines, and other celebrity events, influence our youth and endorse those who already smoke. Big tobacco knows this and is taking full advantage of it (3,000 teens are taking up smoking every day in the U.S.). Hollywood on the other hand, intentionally or not, is increasingly becoming a silent partner in this renewed old marriage. They both have to share the responsibility to inform and clarify the truth. The intentional or unintentional promotion of cigarette smoking in movies calls for common sense to be applied in terms of a regulatory and educational response. ‘In 1992, Dying of lung cancer, Wayne McLaren, the Marlboro Man, appeared at Phillip Morris annual shareholders meeting in Richmond, Virginia, and asked the company to voluntarily limit its advertising. -“We’re certainly sorry to hear about your medical problem. Without knowing your medical history, I don’t think I can comment any further”- answered Chairman Michael Miles’ (qtd. in “History” 3). -The Marlboro Man died of lung cancer three months later-
1 As quoted in the SmokeFreeMovies website, Hamish Maxwell, president of Phillip Morris International; in a 1983 speech to his marketeers highlighted the importance of smoking in the movies with the following remarks: “Smoking is being positioned as an unfashionable, as well as unhealthy, custom. We must use every creative means at our disposal to reverse this destructive trend. I do feel heartened at the increasing number of occasions when I go to a movie and see a pack of cigarettes in the hands of the leading lady. This is in sharp contrast to the state of affairs just a few years ago when cigarettes rarely showed up in cinema. We must continue to exploit new opportunities to get cigarettes on screen and into the hands of smokers” 2 Warner Bros. (AOL TimeWarner), Paramount (Viacom), Universal (Vivendi Universal), 20th Century Fox ( News Corp), Columbia (Sony), Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax (all Disney). Phillip Morris CEOs past and present, sit on AOL TimeWarner’s and News Corp’s boards (“If Hollywood” 1). 3 Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and author of The cigarette papers and the Tobacco war, proposes the following measures: “1. Roll an on-screen credit certifying that nobody on the production has accepted anything of value from any tobacco company, its agents or fronts. 2. Run strong anti-tobacco ads in front of smoking movies. Put them on tapes and DVDs, too. Strong spots are proven to immunize audiences. 3. Quit identifying tobacco brands- in the background or in action. Brand names are unnecessary. 4. Rate any smoking movie “R”. While this may identify smoking with maturity, it should give studios pause” (“If Hollywood” 1).
Goldstein, Patrick. “Ad Banned, but Smoking on Screen Isn’t.” Los Angeles Times 5 Mar, 2002. Abstract. 24 Mar. 2003 <http//Newsfirstsearch.oclc.org/ WebZ/FSFETCH?fetchtype=fullrecord:next=html/record.ht… “History of Cigarette Advertising.” History of Cigarette Smoke. 18 Feb. 2003 <http//www.uchsc.edu/sm/cihl/history_of_ cigarette_ smoke.htm “Hollywood Attacks Tobacco.” BBC News 28 Nov. 1997. 17 Feb. 2003 <http//news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/35301.stm “Hollywood Smoke Signals.” Editorial. USA Today 3 Feb. 2001. 17 Feb. 2003 <http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/2001-03=02-edtwof2.htm “If Hollywood Studios are doing Big Tobacco’s dirty work for free, shareholders should sue them for stupidity.” Smoke Free Movies. 18 Feb. 2003 <http://www.smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu/pdf/sfm3.nyt.revised.pdf Morgan, John. “Film puts spotlight on movie smoking.” USA Today 30 April 2001. 17 Feb. 2003 <http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlight/2001-04-30Hollywood-smoking.htm Rowley, Christine H. “Kids, smoking and movies.” What you need to know about smoking cessation. 2 Mar. 2003 <http://quitsmoking.about.com/library/weekly/ aa100697.htm “Tobacco in PG-13 films targets teens.” youthincharge. 18 Feb. 2003. http://www.youth incharge.org/microsite/pdf/tobacco_in_pg.pdf
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.