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Movie Studios Temper Glamorous Image of Smoking with PSAs

New America Media, News Report, Ketaki Gokhale Posted: Jul 17, 2008

Editor's Note: DVD releases of movies that feature tobacco use will soon open with anti-smoking public service announcements, the result of a new agreement between the State of California and major Hollywood studios.

When Sony releases the DVD of 21, a film about MIT math whizzes who take on the smoke-filled world of Las Vegas casinos, this July 22, it will be the first-ever film to feature a state-sponsored anti-smoking public service ad in its opening minutes. The commercial will contrast glamorous tobacco industry images of smokersa cowboy, a hip-hop DJ and a twenties-era flapperwith the bleak image of a dying man in a wheelchair who warns, The reality is, you can end up looking like this.

DVD releases of movies rated G, PG or PG-13 that feature tobacco use will all soon open with anti-smoking public service announcements because of a new agreement between the State of California, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and several major Hollywood studios.

The ads were paid for by the California Tobacco Control Program, which has received approximately $1.26 billion in funding since 1988 when Prop. 99 was passed, increasing the tax on cigarettes. The Entertainment Industry Foundation coordinated the agreement between the office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Health and Human Services Agency, and is paying the associated talent costs for 21 months for use of the ads.

The campaign is expected to reach tens of millions of people, because the studios that signed the agreement dominate the market, with 95 percent of the market share, HHSA spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez says.

The anti-tobacco ads the studios are planning to use will be familiar to viewers because theyve already aired on television. One features adults holding bubble wands instead of cigarettes, with bubbles floating through the air and a closing message that reads, Imagine a world without cigarettes.

Another juxtaposes a smoker with a laboratory rat who drinks from a yellow, nicotine-filled water bottle every time the smoker inhales, and yet another shows a boy helping his father quit smoking by making him a motivational tape to play in his car.

The commercials are targeted toward children, but will be seen by moviegoers of all ages, all over the world, Lopez says.

Some wonder, however, if media campaigns are the best use of the Prop. 99 tobacco control funds. I kind of feel like its a waste of money, says Anastasia Freeman, an 18-year-old from Oakland, Calif.

Currently, 20 percent of the funds are used for media campaigns and 28 percent of the funds are used for school programs. Another 20 percent of the funds are used for non-profit agency grants, 21 percent for local health departments, and 11 percent for evaluation and administration costs.

Seventeen-year-old Kalei Meyers doesnt expect the ads to have an impact on young smokers. The Oakland, Calif. teen has been smoking since she was 14. Youth are going to smoke regardless, she says. The only thing that can reach youth is someone they can relate to actually talking to them. Public service announcements arent the answer. Schools are a better place for this.

Others question the logic behind placing the ads at the beginning of movies that show tobacco use. People see smoking every daydoes that mean we need to have ads up everywhere? wonders Lexie Adams, 17, of Oakland. Kids arent going to watch things at the beginning of movies. Theyll just hit fast-forward.

Californias Tobacco Control program has been credited with helping reduce smoking by more than 33 percent and significantly reducing lung cancer rates in California since its inception.

New DVD releases that will feature the ads include Leatherheads, which shows people smoking mostly cigarettes, but also some cigars and at least one pipe, according to one discussion site for parents, and The Incredible Hulk, which was been decried by the American Medical Association Alliance for unnecessary tobacco imagery.

The agreements with the studiosSony Pictures, Universal Studios, Time Warner, Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Twentieth Century Foxrun through 2009.

Related Articles:

Rhode Island Anti-Smoking Campaign Goes Espaol

Black Market In Tobacco Makes Prisons More Violent

Up In Smoke: Young Asians Are Lighting Up in California

More Latinas Lighting Up: The Health Effects of Acculturation

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