The Oscars hit the screen on February 9, but students from Falconer High School did their part on February 6 to push for a new rating system for films that include on-screen smoking. The youth, members of the school’s Reality Check group, hosted a free movie night at the Reg Lenna Center For The Arts to raise awareness of the issue and ask their community members to #HelpOscarQuit.

Students hope to #HelpOscarQuit by raising the rating of movies that feature smoking.

The movie event, sponsored by Reality Check, Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany (TF-CCA) and HOPE Chautauqua, featured a showing of the 2019 ALADDIN movie starring Will Smith. In the movie, the Aladdin character smokes a hookah pipe.

Their effort was in observance of Smokefree Movies International Week of Action which is held each year during Oscar season to bring awareness to their community members about smoking in films.

Despite all the work that’s been done to counter smoking in movies, Hollywood continues to light up the screen with smoke.  The Surgeon General’s Report updated in 2017 notes that movie companies with tobacco depiction policies included tobacco in as many of their youth-rated movies in 2017 as they did in 2010 and each of these movies included 37 percent more tobacco incidents, on average.

The Chautauqua County community came together to convince Hollywood that our kids don’t need to be exposed to smoking in movies.

“That’s why we keep coming out to do a movie night each year,” said Jonathan Chaffee, Reality Check youth coordinator of TF-CCA.  “We will continue to tell the truth to expose Big Tobacco’s lies:  Changing the rating to R will protect kids from tobacco promotion and reduce the risk of them ever starting to smoke.”

In addition to the movie, theatre-goers took selfies and posted them on social media outlets using the hashtag #HelpOscarQuit.

A banner made and held by the TF-CCA team and youth read, “I wish…for NO Smoking in youth-rated movies.” The headline was just above a compelling visual of Aladdin’s golden lamp. Messaging along the bottom of the banner read, “One Little Letter “R” Will Save a Million Lives.” That comes from the Surgeon General’s report that making future youth-rated smoke-free could reduce teen smoking rates by nearly 20 percent—preventing one million tobacco deaths from cancer and other diseases.

They also signed a “Rate Smoking R” banner that will be sent to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the agency that manages the American film rating system, providing parents with the information needed to determine if a film is appropriate for their children. 

For more information on the Reality Check program or smoke-free movies, contact [email protected].