The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the trade group that represents the major film studios. It manages the US film rating system and could fix the problem of smoking in movies.
The MPAA's powerful film industry board members have so far failed to reach consensus about the on-screen smoking problem. Instead, for the past decade, the MPAA has employed public relations tactics to confuse and minimize the issue. (Fact check MPAA assertions about tobacco and ratings.)
2003 | Twenty-seven Attorneys General
the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) expressing
concern about the growth of smoking in the movies and
its effect on teens.
| Dan Glickman succeeds Valenti as president of the
MPAA. However, Valenti continues to represent the studios
on smoking in films and to oppose an R-rating.
| Thirty-two AGs write the MPAA and studios, urging
them to include an anti-smoking ad on movie DVDs that
7, 2006 | Forty-one AGs again write
the MPAA and studios renewing their call for anti-smoking
ads. To make it easy, they included three Truth®
ads from the American Legacy Foundation, which studios
could use at no cost. Only The Weinstein Company accepts
5, 2006 | MPAA’s Glickman tells
the AGs that the MPAA has invited recommendations from
the Harvard School of Public Health and will work to
"gain consensus" among its member studios
to implement them.
23, 2007 | Consistent with Smoke Free Movies'
policy solutions, Harvard recommends
that the MPAA "take substantive and effective action
to eliminate the depiction of tobacco smoking from films
accessible to children and youths..."
1, 2007 | After Harvard’s recommendations
are made public on April 3, thirty-one AGs follow up
with another letter
to the MPAA, studios and Guilds containing the strongest
language to date:
time a member of the industry releases another movie
that depicts smoking, it does so with the full knowledge
of the harm it will bring to children who watch it...
the depiction of tobacco smoking from films accessible
to children and youth. There is simply no justification
for further delay.
10, 2007 | The MPAA announces
that it will “consider” tobacco imagery
in the ratings starting immediately. However, it does
not bind itself to take any particular action after
reviewing films with smoking.
health organizations quickly denounced the MPAA’s
placebo policy as inadequate. They pledge to keep pressing
for the R-rating and other measures that can substantially
and permanently reduce adolescent exposure. (Statements
from the American
Medical Association, American
Heart Association, American
Legacy Foundation, and Campaign
for Tobacco Free Kids were typical.)
5, 2007 | Vermont Attorney General
William H. Sorrell, a leader among AGs on tobacco issues,
the MPAA that AGs are "witholding judgement"
on the effectiveness of the MPAA’s plan and requests
more specific information from the MPAA, which is not
provided. Later that year, the AG declines to meet with
2009 | After two years, independent researchers
that the MPAA’s rating practices have had virtually
no effect on youth exposure to on-screen smoking and
give consumers no reliable guidance on films’
2, 2009 | Attorney General Sorrell writes
the CEOs of the media companies that own the film studios:
urge all studios to fulfill the Harvard School of
Public Health’s recommendation that studios
eliminate the depiction of tobacco use from films
accessible to youth. The evidence of its negative
consequences is now inescapable. Moreover, as this
evidence growsd, it is clear that every time the industry
releases another movie that depicts smoking, it does
so with full knowledge of the deadly harm it will
bring to children who watch it.
and clean indoor air laws
April 22, 2009, the MPAA interrupted North Carolina
Senate debate on landmark smokefree workplace legislation
to demand a loophole for smoking in film productions.
“The motion picture industry worries the bill
would prevent actors from smoking on screen,”
reported the Associated Press.
stories claimed, erroneously, that major film production
centers like California and New York already exempt
film productions; in fact, only Massachusetts exempts
films, and only if local authorities approve. Florida
explicitly rejected such an exemption in 2002. New York
City exempts live theatrical productions, but only with
a state-granted waiver. Currently, the only waiver in
NYC is for a Philip Morris product testing lab.
Motion Picture Association of America is against the
[N.C. smokefree workplace] proposal, saying it would
likely mean pulling out of the state,” reported
an ABC (Disney) affiliate. The bill signed into North
Carolina law on May 19, 2009, exempts smoking by performers
on a “motion picture, television, theater or other
live production set.”