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Alberta youth aged 12-19 smoke 530,000 cigarettes every day. Here's how you can help prevent youth smoking in Alberta.

Smoke-free Movies

Our Position

Smoking imagery in movies is an ongoing concern because on-screen tobacco use contributes to youth smoking initiation. Witnessing positive associations of tobacco use in films increases  the social acceptability of smoking and encourages experimentation among adolescents.
On-screen tobacco use is a tactic employed by the tobacco industry to target and recruit young people to smoke. Alberta requires stronger legislation to protect youth from exposure to tobacco marketing.

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Alberta has made significant progress in eliminating tobacco advertising from venues accessible to youth. However, tobacco use in films remains a significant concern. Motion pictures are a primary source of entertainment for many young individuals, with films rated Parental Guidance (PG) , among the highest-grossing genre.

For decades motion pictures have been used by tobacco companies as promotional venues to change social smoking norms and increase the acceptability of tobacco use. Most tobacco appearances are presented in ‘pleasant’ situations to provoke positive perceptions of smoking and are often done unknowingly to the audience.

Over the years, the influence of on-screen smoking imagery on youth behaviours has been called into question by health organizations. In 2012, the US Surgeon General declared a causal association between smoking in films and youth smoking initiation. 

Smoking in Movies

Smoking in movies glamorizes tobacco by associating it with characters portraying wealth, power, sex and rebellion.  This association sends pro-tobacco messaging to its viewers. Quite rarely do movies portray the realistic health consequences associated with smoking. 

Roughly 80% of movies viewed worldwide contain depictions of smoking. In 2012, it is estimated that PG-13 films in the US contained nearly as much smoking imagery (39.8 incidents) as R-rated films (42.1 incidents). Likewise, youth-rated films delivered 14.8 billion tobacco use impressions (calculated by paid admissions times tobacco incidents) in 2012, increasing drastically since 2010. 

A recent study by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit found that 90% of top grossing movies in Canada from 2004 to 2013 were youth rated in Ontario. Fifty-seven percent of all top grossing movies during that time contained smoking imagery, and 86% of all movies with smoking imagery were youth rated. The study estimated that 92,000 youth smokers in Ontario were recruited due to exposure to on-screen tobacco use

Our recommendation

Alberta youth are subject to on-screen tobacco marketing regardless of their choice to be exposed. As Alberta strengthens its control measures on tobacco marketing and promotion, the tobacco industry is effectively utilizing other venues to promote and advertise its products to youth. Alberta youth deserve first class protection from predatory tobacco industry marketing.
  • The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta recommends that the Government of Alberta amend the Film and Video Classification Regulations to develop stronger content ratings for movies that depict smoking and tobacco related imagery. Specifically, we recommend that all movies and videos depicting smoking imagery be classified as Restricted (age 18 and over).

  • In the interim, any movies or videos that depict tobacco imagery should incorporate public service announcements in standard film and video formats and tobacco warning messages prior to the start of any feature film.
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