SAN FRANCISCO, July 9 (Xinhua) -- A new report from the University of California, San Francisco, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other entities shows that youth-rated films, which are designed and marketed as kid-friendly, continue to fill the movie screen with tobacco imagery.
Nearly half (46 percent) of the films with smoking were youth-rated during the analysis period of 2010 to 2016, according to the report released last week in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). This amounted to 210 of the 459 top-grossing films.
In movies rated PG-13 according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system, namely some material may be inappropriate for children under age 13, the number of incidents of smoking surged from 564 in 2010 to 809 in 2016. The amount of smoking in the few G and PG movies during that timeframe dropped from 30 to 4.
Under the MPAA system, G- and PG-rated movies are those with nothing that would offend parents for viewing by children or those with some material may not be suitable for children; R-rated movies are those containing some adult material and a movie-goer under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
"Modernizing Hollywood's rating system to protect the audience by awarding movies with smoking an R rating would save a million kids' lives," said senior author Stanton A. Glantz, a UCSF professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. "That is the best way that the six big media companies that control the Motion Picture Association of America could ensure that movies marketed to kids are not also selling cigarettes."
The U.S. Surgeon General, based on years of published scientific data, concluded in 2012 that depictions of smoking in the movies cause young people to start smoking.
The researchers in the new study found that from 2010 to 2016:
-- The number of tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies increased by 72 percent (from 1,824 to 3,145);
-- The number of incidents in G or PG movies decreased by 87 percent (from 30 to 4);
-- The number of incidents in PG-13 movies increased by 43 percent (from 564 to 809);
-- The number of incidents in R-rated movies increased by 90 percent (from 1,230 to 2,332);
In the study, each incident of tobacco use is defined as the use, or implied use, by an actor of a tobacco product, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. At least two trained monitors counted all tobacco incidents at in-theater movies that were in the 10 top-grossing movies during a calendar week, while such movies accounted for 96 percent of U.S. ticket sales.
The study did not take into account viewing platforms such as DVD and Blu-ray, television, and online streaming, where youth are also exposed to smoking images in films.
"Since 2010, there has been no progress in reducing the total number of tobacco incidents in youth-rated movies," Glantz, who founded Smokefree Movies, which aims to improve public policy and film industry practice, in 2001, was quoted as saying in a news release. "There is an enormous need to implement an industry-wide standard by requiring that all movies rated for kids are smoke-free."