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Toronto Event Will Deliver Stark Message: Smoking on Screen Kills in Real Life

Apr 06, 2016

On Saturday, youth from Canada and the U.S. will join forces to call for smoke-free youth-rated movies. Three of the movies with smoking scenes that are nominated for MTV awards this year: Creed (14A), The Big Short (14A), Ant Man (PG13)

Toronto, ON – On the eve of the MTV Movie Awards, 150 young people from Ontario and New York will gather in Toronto on Saturday, April 9, to call for on-screen smoking to be eliminated from movies rated for children and teens.  They want to draw public attention to overwhelming research showing that the more young people see smoking in movies, the more likely they are to start smoking and become addicted to nicotine.

The bi-national event, jointly organized by the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies and Reality Check of New York, begins at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday when youth participants dressed in red and blue will hit the streets around Toronto City Hall to raise awareness about the dangers of on-screen smoking.

The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) report Exposure to Onscreen Tobacco in Movies among Ontario Youth, 2004-2014 found that the majority (86 per cent) of movies with on-screen smoking released in Ontario were rated for children and teens. OTRU estimates that at least 185,000 children and teens aged 0-17 living in Ontario today will be recruited to cigarette smoking by their exposure to onscreen smoking.

The report also projects that at least 59,000 of those smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related disease. Applying an 18A rating to all movies with onscreen smoking would avert an estimated 30,000 tobacco-related deaths and save more than half a billion dollars ($568 million) in healthcare costs. https://otru.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/special_movies.pdf

Saturday’s event in Toronto will also highlight growing public support for the use of movie ratings to ensure that youth-rated movies are smoke-free. Almost eight in 10 Ontarians (79 per cent) support not allowing smoking in movies rated 14A or lower – up from 73 per cent in 2011 – according to the results of a 2015 Ipsos Reid poll released last week.

The survey also found that 62 per cent support changing movie ratings so that movies with smoking get an 18A rating (up from 52 per cent in 2011). [The full results of the Ipsos Reid poll are available at https://www.ipsos-na.com/download/pr.aspx?id=15448]

“Parents always try to do and be the best for their children,” said Tirthesha Pandya, of Toronto, an Ontario Lung Association youth volunteer who will participate in Saturday’s event. “Violence, language, nudity, sexual activity, horror and psychological impact including substance abuse are among the criteria considered when assigning a movie rating. To help prevent a new generation of addicted tobacco users, movies rated for children and teens need to be tobacco-free.”

“Requiring movies rated for children and teens to be smoke free will protect young people from exposure to on screen smoking while allowing filmmakers to include smoking in films rated 18A in Ontario,” said George Habib, president and CEO of the Ontario Lung Association. “An 18A rating would give parents consistent information about tobacco content in movies to allow them to make informed viewing choices for themselves and their children.”

About the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies

The Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies is an alliance of leading health organizations taking collective action to counter the harmful impact of smoking in youth-rated movies. Members of the coalition include the Ontario Lung Association, Canadian Cancer Society Ontario Division, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Non-Smokers’ Rights Association/Smoking and Health Action Foundation, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Tobacco Control Networks of Public Health Units in Ontario. For more information visit: www.smokefreemovies.ca



Media Inquiries:

Chris Yaccato Ontario Lung Association 416-303-4589 | cyaccato@on.lung.ca