On Saturday February 9, 2020 the same day as the Oscars Rockland County Youth including members from Tappan Zee High School SADD & Reality Check Club came together to push for a new rating system for films that includes on-screen smoking. Their effort was in observance of International Week of Action which is held each year during Oscar season to bringing awareness to smoking in films. In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that exposure to smoking on screen influences children to smoke in real life.
Reality Check members Kelly Bolton and Krissy Kearny addressed the audience prior to the film discussing how the tobacco industry bought itself on screen decades ago. Youth also made and banner that said, “On-screen smoking will recruit 6.4 million new young smokers in this generation, two million of whom will die from tobacco-induced cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke. One little letter can save one million lives.” Students educated theater goers and had the banner signed.
The U.S. Surgeon General further reports that making future youth-rated movies smoke-free could reduce teen smoking rates by nearly 20 percent — preventing one million tobacco deaths from cancer and other diseases.
One proven way to reduce youth exposure is to give all films with on-screen smoking an R-rating. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the studios’ organization that assigns ratings, currently provides a “smoking label” along with the regular rating for some movies that contain smoking. However, almost 9 of every 10 (89 percent) youth-rated, top-grossing movies with smoking do not carry an MPAA “smoking label.”