The world was abuzz with red carpet fanfare Sunday evening. Leo finally took home his Best Actor award. “Spotlight” won Best Picture. And in my opinion, my Olean Reality Check (RC) group won the Best Youth Advocacy award for activities the group held last week during International Week of Action (IWOA).
Held annually the week leading up to the Academy Awards, IWOA builds awareness in our community about how prevalent smoking in youth-rated movies still is. It’s a perfect time for RC youth to advocate for having movies with tobacco use be rated R.
For IWOA 2016, Olean’s RC group partnered with the Salamanca Seneca Chamber of Commerce for a smoke-free showing of Hotel Transylvania 2. Throughout the movie, RC members had viewers take selfies with a “One little letter can save a million lives” sign. These selfies were then posted on social media with the #RateSmokingR and shared with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
The US film industry — including the MPAA, Disney, Sony, Paramount, Fox, Universal, Warner Bros., and the National Association of Theatre Owners — has known for more than a decade that their films with smoking put young audiences at risk of addiction, disease and premature death. Yet their response is still lacking.
How lacking? Despite having been informed that films with tobacco recruit large numbers of American kids under the age of 17 to use tobacco, the film industry has rated countless films PG or PG-13 versus R. They even ignored the advice from the Surgeon General who stated that if tobacco imagery were eliminated from youth-rated films, as many as one million deaths in this generation of children could be prevented.
It’s time for the tobacco industry to take a lead role in taking smoking and tobacco imagery out of youth-rated movies. My Reality Check kids will keep fighting until they do. You can fight, too.
By Jon Chaffee, Reality Check Coordinator of Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties