Last year, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit estimated that in an average year 13,241 Ontarians aged 12-17 are recruited to smoking by watching smoking in movies.
On February 21st, Elgin Youth voiced their support for Smoke-Free Youth Rated Movies in a cross-border rally on the eve of the Academy Awards. Youth from Canada and the U.S. joined forces to deliver a stark message: Smoking on screen kills in real life.
“Last year, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) released a report showing that 57 per cent of the 1,434 top-grossing movies released in theatres from 2004 to 2013 featured on-screen smoking and delivered a total of 8.1 billion tobacco impressions,” said Andrea Kita, co-chair of the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies, “and 86 per cent of those were rated (G or PG) for youth in Ontario”. The OTRU report estimated that in an average year 13,241 Ontarians aged 12-17 are recruited to smoking by watching smoking in movies. It is projected that 4,237 of them will die prematurely as a result of tobacco imagery in movies.
“Violence, language, nudity, sexual activity, horror and psychological impact including substance abuse are among the criteria considered when assigning a movie rating,” she said. “To help prevent a new generation of smokers, movies for children and teens need to be tobacco-free.”
Jessica Austin, Health Promoter at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health states, “Currently G and PG rated movies are permitted to have smoking included and it just doesn’t make sense why animated characters and cartoons would be smoking in the first place? When parents want to watch a family movie with their children, they shouldn’t have to worry about content that is detrimental to their kids’ health.”
In 2014 Elgin St. Thomas Public Health hosted smoke free movie events to ask parents about their awareness and concern around this topic. “85% of parents agreed that smoking should not be in G or PG rated movies and overall parents expressed their frustration that smoking even existed in children’s movies in this day and age where we know it is not something we want our children to start.” Austin explains. “No parent wants their kids to start smoking,” said Spencer Ray, of Belmont, who participated in Saturday’s Rainbow Bridge event. “What bothers me is that many parents and youth have no idea that about 130,000 young Canadians aged 15 to 19 become addicted to tobacco products because of exposure to on-screen smoking.”
Currently, parents and youth can make informed choices on what movies they’d like to watch by visiting http://www.scenesmoking.org/movie-searchto search movie titles and their incidents of smoking.
“Requiring youth-rated movies to be smoke free will protect young people from exposure to smoking imagery while allowing filmmakers to include smoking in films rated 18A,” said George Habib, president and CEO of the Ontario Lung Association. “An 18A rating would give parents information about tobacco content in movies and allow them to make informed viewing choices for themselves and their children.”
To download HD video from Friday’s night’s lighting of Niagara Falls, as well as other Smoke-Free Movies video resources, go to: http://www.on.lung.ca/niagara/
To access tools to voice concerns about tobacco in children and teen-rated movies and for more information, visit www.smokefreemovies.ca. For more information about initiatives in Elgin County, contact Jessica Austin Health Promoter 519-631-9900 x1315, firstname.lastname@example.org
Article & photos courtesy of Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health