Casey vs. Big Tobacco

To the Editor,

Although there are measures being taken to reduce smoking throughout New York State, the harmful effects of tobacco use are still threatening to the youth of our community. Many areas and counties have taken restrictions on outdoor smoking, prohibiting the use of tobacco products being sold without proper licensing, and initiating laws to monitor tobacco advertising to youth, but progress outside local communities is needed. The media is very influential to people, particularly young people, and seeing role models and favorite actors using tobacco products on the silver screen can leave a lasting impression.

Tobacco companies are smart; they know that youth are impressionable. The average age of a new smoker is thirteen. Youth are led by example; they take after the habits that they observe by older people in their lives. Children are more likely to take up smoking if their parents, siblings, teachers, etc. do. The same goes for their favorite film and TV stars. If their role models are doing it, they are more likely to think of it as a normal and somewhat glorifies habit.

The surgeon general reports that exposure to onscreen smoking has an enormous affect on the initiation of youth smoking. Because of these disturbing truths, 6.4 million children alive today will become smokers, and 2 million of these children will die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking. In 2017 alone, 37% of youth-friendly movies (PG-13 and under) featured smoking. The Motion Picture Association encourages that youth-friendly movies should depict a “non-smoking” label during the credits, however almost 9 of every 10 (89%) youth-rated, top-grossing movies with smoking do not carry an MPAA smoking label.

Although unfortunate, these statistics pose a serious threat to our children. There are ways to combat these upsetting facts, and there are many ways to diminish youth exposure to smoking in the media. For starters, all movies that feature smoking should be given an adult (“R”) rating. If a movie or television show absolutely must feature smoking, it should be restricted to adults and given a “viewer discretion advised” warning. Among all media efforts to reduce tobacco exposure, all should be encouraged to join the movement by joining proactive groups and contacting local government to end tobacco on the big screen. For more information, visit www.realitycheckofny.org.

Sincerely,
Casey Crowell
POW’R Against Tobacco Intern