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AAP Calls for an End to 'Toxic' Tobacco Content in Hollywood Movies

CHICAGO, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hollywood movies deliver billions of tobacco impressions to young audiences annually, and this poses one of the gravest threats to U.S. teens, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). On-screen tobacco recruits 390,000 new teen smokers each year in the U.S alone, and U.S. films take in 58 percent of movie box office sales globally, so this toxic tobacco content is also causing harm around the world. The AAP joins many other health groups in calling on the movie industry to stop toxic tobacco content in films and make youth-rated movies smoke free.

"On-screen tobacco is an enormous risk to our kids," said Renee Jenkins, MD, FAAP, president of AAP. "Movies with tobacco help to recruit one-third to one-half of young smokers in the U.S., and studies overseas find similar effects on young people there."

U.S. films with tobacco imagery -- 75 percent of all U.S. releases -- have delivered an estimated 44 billion tobacco impressions to theater audiences in the United States alone, one quarter of these to children and adolescents. Studio policies so far have not led to substantial changes in mainstream PG-13 tobacco content. Analysis by University of California-San Francisco of the first six months of 2007 finds that Hollywood's tobacco profile is unchanged. Thirty-six percent of G/PG movies, 69 percent of PG-13 movies, and 86 percent of R-rated movies contained tobacco during this period.

For years, leading U.S. health groups and the United Nations World Health Organization have urged Hollywood to take voluntary steps to reduce teen exposure to tobacco imagery on screen. The AAP urges the entertainment industry to immediately adopt four Smoke Free Movie policies:

1. Rate new smoking movies "R."

Any film that shows or implies tobacco should be rated "R." The only exceptions should be when the presentation of tobacco clearly and unambiguously reflects the dangers and consequences of tobacco use or is necessary to represent the smoking of a real historical figure.

2. Certify no payoffs.

The producers should post a certificate in the closing credits declaring that no one on the production received anything of value (cash money, free cigarettes or other gifts, free publicity, interest-free loans or anything else) from anyone in exchange for using or displaying tobacco. (SFM is working with attorneys on how certification can be made binding and enforceable.)

3. Require strong anti-smoking ads.

Studios and theaters should require a genuinely strong anti-smoking ad (not one produced by a tobacco company) to run before any film with any tobacco presence, in any distribution channel, regardless of its MPAA rating.

4. Stop identifying tobacco brands.

There should be no tobacco brand identification nor the presence of tobacco brand imagery (such as billboards) in the background of any movie scene.

During this week leading up to the 80th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 24, The AAP and other public health groups from New York and Los Angeles to Liverpool and Sydney seek to raise awareness of the need to detoxify our children's movies, so that parents can choose entertainment that is not pushing tobacco.

"It is critically important that there be genuine, proven-effective, anti-tobacco messages to help protect youth from the influence of media promotion of smoking," said Gil Fuld, MD, FAAP, Chair of the AAP Council on Communications and Media. "The AAP recently asked the five largest DVD retailers (Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Blockbuster and NetFlix) to call for inclusion of effective anti-tobacco spots, hazard labels on DVD packages, and display posters to help alert parents to the hazard of tobacco imagery in movie DVDs."

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. The AAP Julius B. Richmond Center, a national center of excellence funded by the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute and the American Legacy Foundation, is dedicated to the elimination of children's exposure to tobacco. The center is named for pediatrician and former Surgeon General Julius B Richmond.

SOURCE American Academy of Pediatrics
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