Teens seek R rating for movies that show smoking
FROM CANADIAN PRESS
Teenage anti-smoking activists have asked the Ontario government to slap a restricted rating on all movies showing tobacco — meaning no theatre-goers under 18 would be allowed to see films featuring smoking.
The recommendation was part of the Lung Association's Youth Tobacco Team's report on how to curb youth smoking, presented to the province's Health Ministry last week.
Michelle Tham, 18, of Mississauga, Ont., said the group wanted to focus on what made teens want to light up in the first place.
"Everyone talks about peer pressure being the problem, but sometimes it's an individual person," Tham said.
"Maybe it's one girl who looks up to Julia Roberts and sees her smoke and feels like she has to be influenced by it."
The team got the idea from an American study that found more than half of kids from ages 10 to 14 started smoking because they saw it in a movie, Tham said.
The study also concluded that the more youngsters saw smoking in films, the more likely they were to spark up.
Smoking, it seems, is still cool in school. One in five high-schoolers is hooked on the habit, according to the Lung Association.
Susan Berek of the Ontario Tobacco Free Network said threatening filmmakers with the dreaded "R" rating would make them think twice about showing smoking in their movies.
"They would want the broader, younger audience to go to it as well, so this would be an incentive for them to remove the product entirely because that's the ultimate goal for us," she said.
Since tobacco companies can't advertise in Canadian newspapers or magazines, movies have become a way of marketing the product without actually advertising the brand, Berek added.
But the youth group's proposal doesn't sit well with Alan Goluboff, president of the Directors Guild of Canada.
"The whole concept is absolutely ludicrous," he said.
"If these kids think that by doing this somehow it will reduce smoking in this country within the teen population, I think it's absolutely naive to believe that."
Filmmakers shouldn't be forced to tailor their films to ratings systems, but rather concentrate on character portrayal, whether that includes cigarettes or not, Goluboff argued.
"Placing that kind of creative restrictions on the whims of an artist is dangerous," he said.
"Art should be out there and acting as a mirror to our society, and right now, our society allows smoking."
Tham countered by saying that's just an excuse for a lazy industry that uses cigarettes as a crutch.
"If an actor is using a cigarette as a tool, as a prop, then what does that say about the actor's skill that they can't get those characteristics across the screen on their own without a cigarette?" she said.
Smoking is prevalent on the silver screen these days. Of the top 10 flicks in theatres this week, only one didn't feature smoking (Cheaper by the Dozen).
Under the Youth Tobacco Team proposal, the offending nine would be restricted to adult audiences.
"It's really quite simple," said Tham, a Grade 12 student.
"If they want their movies to not be rated R, then all they have to do is not put smoking in them. I think that's a very easy thing to do and it will make a huge impact."
That kind of outside-the-carton thinking has made an impression on the provincial government.
MPP Peter Fonseca, parliamentary secretary to Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman, said if it can be demonstrated that an R rating "would make a measurable difference in terms of Ontarians smoking or not," the ministry would consider the youth group's proposal.
But any such legislation could spell the death of Canadian filmmaking, Goluboff warned.
"If that was endorsed by the government, there would be no films ever made in this country — ever — because unless you're making a cartoon, the odds are you're going to see a smoking character in a film."
Tham, however, said she sees the proposal as a chance for Ontario to lead the way and set a standard for an entire industry.
"This is a pretty heavy recommendation that, if it's implemented, will send ripples through government and the film industry in Canada and the United States".
I think that's not good because they shouldn't blame it on the media that makes kids start smoking. They should be focusing on the parents to teach their children not to smoke and to teach them about peer pressure at a younge age. A lot of movies that are not even violent have smoking in them..
I dont know
I dont agree with it at all.
I do agree with censorship on some stuff but on smoking, i dont..
also it was ages 10-14 that started bc of the movies, of course they're going to be influenced bc they're such a young, fragile age..
They should make the movies pg-13 or A, I think rated R is a little steep.