If there’s anwhere anyone can advertise anything, it’s ‘Variety’ and ‘The Hollywood Reporter’. But there’s one ad neither of the Hollywood trade publications will run the latest broad side from Smoke Free Movies, a health advocacy group that’s been at the forefront of a no-holds-barred campaign against the proliferation of cigarette smoking in movies.
Led by the U. of California (UCSF) School of Medicine’s Professor Stanton Glantz, Smoke Free Movies has run ads in publications including The New York Times detailing what it calls Hollywood’s “sordid history of trading cash, goods and publicity” for glamorizing smoking. Citing studies that found smoking on screen today more frequent than since the early 1960s, the organization advocates giving an R rating to any movie that features tobacco use. Variety ran the organization’s earlier ads, but rejected the latest ad, which attacked Miramax’s, In the Bedroom for ‘gratuitously promoting Marlboro brand cigarettes’. Glantz says Variety never complained about the ad until an ABC News Reporter called Miramax for a comment. “The next day variety said they wouldn’t run the ad,” says Glantz. “I have no doubt Miramax demanded they pull the ads. People say that when we criticize smoking in movies that we’re interfering with free speech, but then Miramax uses its economic muscle to basically shut me up.”
The ad. controversy highlights a troublesome issue. In an era in which tobacco use is on the decline in the USA, why is cigarette smoking on the rise in Hollywood films? Glantz’s ads are often obnoxious but they make a valid point. Studies show that kids who see stars smoking in films are more likely to start smoking. If every movie with smoking was made to have an A rating, shrinking the studios access to young moviegoers, 99% of the smoking in movies would evaporate.