Men in Black (1997, above)
and Men in Black II (2002, below)
feature Marlboros, the leading teen cigarette. Worm guys
Sleeble and Geeble were sold as toys and given to children
by Burger King.
Tobacco and public health leaders agree.
and 2010 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named tobacco
in the movies a major factor in teen smoking. In 2007,
the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences
to depictions of smoking in movies is associated with more
favorable attitudes toward smoking and characters who smoke,
and these positive views are particularly prevalent among
youth who themselves smoke.
to smoking in movies increases the risk for smoking initiation.
Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies provide clear support
that youth report greater susceptibility and intentions to
smoke and are more likely to actually try smoking following
exposure to smoking in the movies and on television. Furthermore,
even after controlling for other factors known to be associated
with adolescent smoking intention and tobacco use, studies
show a clear dose effect, whereby greater exposure to smoking
in the movies is associated with a greater chance of smoking.
increased risk for smoking initiation as a result of exposure
to smoking in the movies can be reduced by antismoking advertisements
and parental restriction of which movies their children watch.
after the most comprehensive review of the science to date,
the US National Cancer Institute went even further. It concluded:
total weight of evidence from cross-sectional, longitudinal,
and experimental studies indicates a causal relationship
between exposure to depictions of smoking in movies and youth
research explains why:
Nonsmoking teens whose favorite stars frequently smoke on screen
are sixteen times more likely to have positive attitudes about
smoking in the future.
Smoking in movies is the most powerful pro-tobacco influence
on kids today, accounting
for 44% of adolescents who start smoking, an effect even
stronger than cigarette advertising.
Taking all other factors into account — such as whether
their parents smoke — seeing a lot of smoking in movies
tripled the odds that teens would try smoking. (Learn aboiut this landmark study.)
More important, exposure to smoking in the movies quadrupled
the chance that nonsmokers’ kids would start.
Tobacco's marketing experts and independent researchers agree.
Moving stories with charismatic actors are a powerful way to
attract new smokers and keep current smokers.
why TV advertising of tobacco brands was banned in 1970. Tobacco
companies turned to Hollywood to place their brands on screen
without the audience knowing. Today, movies that show a tobacco
brand are also more likely to include smoking in their TV ads,
undercutting the 1970 ban.
tobacco companies know the power of movies.
have featured in at least seventy-four of Hollywood's top-grossing
movies over the past fifteen years. Studies show that brands
showing up on screen most often are also the most heavily-advertised
in other media.
documents reveal that both Brown
and Williamson and RJ
Reynolds (both now part of British American Tobacco) worried
that Philip Morris did a better job of getting its brands, like
Marlboro, into the movies. An RJ Reynolds marketing analyst
smoking in the movies is so important to the tobacco industry:
"The medium is the message, and the message would be right
part of the show. How different from being the Corporate
Moneybags or pushing samples in the lobby. It's the difference
between B&W [Brown and Williamson Tobacco] doing commercials
in movie houses and Marlboro turning up in the movies.
"Pull, not push. Nobody tells them the 'answer,' they just
know. Not 'why are you smoking that?' but 'I saw that video
can I try one?' If they feel like wearing the badge,
they'll buy it. Like magic.
"Right now, Marlboro has all the magic. And I'm curious how
they got it. Certainly legal eyebrows would raise at any direct
arrangement for Marlboro's omnipresence in FUBYAS [young smokers]
media. In fact, I read recently about a PMer [Philip Morris
executive] who was confronted about Marlboro's movie appearances
and gave some cagey response like 'Lets just say no money
changed hands.' Perhaps TEM could find out how such things
magically happen for Marlboro. They don't need the magic,
but we do unless we are prepared to wait years for
the buzz, much less the payoff on the bottom line."