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Smoke-Free Media

Big Tobacco has known the power of the media for decades and has a long history with the entertainment industry. The tobacco industry uses tobacco imagery and brand identification on screen to both normalize and glamorize tobacco use.

Smoke-Free Media


Two children watching tv

Teens watch an average of almost 11 hours of media on any given day. The media youth consume is often completely unregulated, giving the tobacco industry direct access to teens’ daily lives.

The tobacco industry uses the media to target youth by having their favorite actors and actresses light up on both television and movie screens. Research shows that the more smoking youth see on screen, the more likely they are to start smoking. Giving movies with smoking in them an R rating can protect youth from influential tobacco industry.

The evidence is sufficient to conclude that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people. — US Surgeon General, 2012


Giving an R rating to future movies with smoking would be expected to reduce the number of teen smokers by nearly 1 in 5 (18%) and prevent 1 million deaths from smoking among children alive today. — US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014

Tobacco use on screen has become nearly unavoidable.

The amount of smoking in top-grossing movies rose to 3,618 incidents in 2019, the most in more than a decade.  In-theater tobacco impressions more than doubled over the past five years, from 9.3 billion in 2015 to 23.7 billion in 2019. The popularity of streaming has boomed over the past year with shows like Stranger Things, Ozark and Outer Banks exposing teens and young adults to hundreds of tobacco depictions.
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