Weekly Wonder: More than double the smoking scenes in PG-13 rated top-grossing movies compared to in 2010



By Anna Stjernquist 
BU News Service

In PG-13 movies, smoking scenes increased by 120% between 2010 and 2018, according to a new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2018, the number of smoking scenes in PG-13 movies was 1,241, up from 564 in 2010. For R-rated movies, smoking scenes increased 31% during the same period, from 1,230 to 1,610. In contrast, the total number in G or PG-rated movies decreased from 30 in 2010 to 17 in 2018.

The total number of scenes featuring smoking in all top-grossing movies increased by 57% during that time, from 1,824 in 2010 to 2,868 in 2018.

Across rating categories, most tobacco users in biographical dramas were fictional characters studios added, rather than historical figures. In the past eight years, 60% of fictional characters in G or PG-rated movies used tobacco, 70% in PG-13–rated movies and 78% in R-rated movies. The identity of each character using tobacco in biographical dramas was also examined to determine whether the character was fictional or an actual person, according to the report.

The report also suggests that a whopping 100% of PG-13 rated biographical dramas by Disney, Fox, Viacom and independent companies featured smoking.

Sony and MPAA topped the list with 93 smoking scenes in their top-grossing G or PG-rated biographical dramas. In PG-13 movies, MPAA was the highest with 2,131 incidents.

The report, released in November 2019, examined data collected on the 139 top-grossing movies by Breathe Sacramento Region and University of California San Francisco’s Onscreen Tobacco DatabaseThe incidents are defined as the use or implied use of a tobacco product, including cigar, tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

Despite the U.S. Surgeon General’s conclusion that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in movies and the initiation of smoking among young persons, on-screen smoking in movies is still increasing.

As of Nov. 20, 2,290 cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette product have been reported to the CDC from 49 states (all except Alaska), Washington D.C. and other territories. Forty-seven deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and Washington D.C.

A bill seeking to ban the in-state sale of all flavored vaping and tobacco products, including mint and menthol cigarettes, was sent to Governor Baker’s desk on Thursday. The bill came about after Baker declared a public health emergency in September, and issued a four-month ban on all vaping products. If this bill is approved, Massachusetts may become the first state in the nation to ban menthol cigarettes. 

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