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Now Showing Healh Impacts by state How Movies Sell Smoking Amount of smoking in each studio's films Brand Identification Big Tobacco & Hollywood Public vs. Private Statements Fact vs. Fiction

How Movies Sell Smoking

Blockbusters 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.

Big Tobacco and public health leaders agree.

In 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 2008, 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 concluded that:

Exposure 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.

Exposure 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.

The 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.

And, in 2008, after the most comprehensive review of the science to date, the US National Cancer Institute went even further. It concluded:

The 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 smoking initiation.

The 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.

Big 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.

That's 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.

Big tobacco companies know the power of movies.

Marlboros 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.

Insider 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 outlined why 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."

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