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Citing data from Sacramento high school students, the U.S. CDC calls on Hollywood to R-rate future movies with smoking

The Surgeon General has concluded that there is a casual relationship between tobacco imagery in youth-rated films and smoking initiation. Assigning all movies with tobacco incidents with an R rating would not only eliminate tobacco product imagery from youth-rated films, but help to actually reduce initiation of tobacco product use among U.S. youths.

Sacramento, CA – WEBWIRE

The latest edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report MMWR, ( takes a break from technical reports on gonorrhea, ebola and opiate casualties to warn that tobacco, the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, is still being spread via entertainment media: movies and streaming TV shows.
The MMWR article, “Tobacco Use in Top-Grossing Movies — United States, 2010–2018,” ( is one in a series of health surveillance reports by the CDC on a primary vector of the tobacco/nicotine epidemic. In 2012, the US Surgeon General reported ( on the long, documented history of collaboration between the U.S. tobacco and entertainment industries. In 2017, the MMWR reported ( that progress against entertainment industry promotion of tobacco had flattened since 2010.
Detailed data behind the CDC’s and World Health Organization’s trend-reporting have come from waves of high-school volunteers in Sacramento County rigorously trained by adult supervisors at Breathe California Sacramento Region, to go see movies and code their tobacco content.
“My time and experience in TUTD has been unparalleled. It has been able to show me how advocacy work and positive community change can come in the most unconventional forms. All the data I have collected and seen has really opened my eyes to the devious marketing of tobacco companies and their massive influence in the film industry and how we portray tobacco use in the media industry,” said Milton Nguyen, a Sophomore at Rio Americano High School.
Cooperation between Hollywood and the tobacco industry dates back nearly a century, to the late 1920s. Cross-promotion, sponsorship, and product placement campaigns are documented in millions of tobacco industry documents digitized by the University of California, San Francisco (, which has partnered with Breathe California’s Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! Tobacco content project ( since the mid 1990s.
Over the years, Breathe California’s high school volunteers have built a uniquely valuable data bank, the Onscreen Tobacco Database ( It shows that 56 percent of top-grossing films since 2002 have featured nearly 50,000 tobacco incidents, delivering more than 360 billion tobacco impressions to domestic movie goers — not including exposure through home video media. More than half of exposure has been delivered by youth-rated films (G/PG/PG-13).
“We’re so proud of these kids because they’re defending their younger siblings and peers,” said Danielle Driscoll [Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! Program Manager]. “Tobacco ads have been heavily restricted, but movies and television shows are still wide open. We need to keep Big Media accountable to save millions of lives here in the U.S. and worldwide.”

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 Tobacco In Movies

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