The Phlegmmy Awards: Smoking in the Movies

It’s Oscar time and on Sunday, February 26 everyone will be glued to their televisions to see if their favorite film and actor win a statuette.  Those on Twitter are either asking who your favorite picks are or asking if you have counted the number of times smoking has been present in a film.  Have you ever thought about the tobacco industry’s motives or how they sneak their products into movies your kids are watching?

Dr. Barry Hummel, MD, is a Pediatrician who works in youth tobacco prevention.  His SmokeScreener.org website shows how kids, age 12-17 are targets of the tobacco industry in movies.  While the Academy is handing out Oscars this Sunday, Dr. Hummel has already handed out his own form of award, “The Phlegmmy” to the top high-smoking movies of the year.  But kids don’t have to wait until they are teens before being exposed to tobacco in the movies, it starts before they even start school.

When you think about kids and movies, Disney comes to mind.  How many times have you popped a classic Disney movie in the VCR or DVD player for your kids and left them to be entertained while you did something else?  You probably didn’t even notice the characters smoking or other clever tobacco placements, such as billboards or a pack of cigarettes in a scene, but your kids see everything and the tobacco industry knows it.  While you may expect the villains in the movies to be the smokers, it’s not always the case.  Every time you watch that movie, the tobacco industry has just shown your child it is acceptable to use tobacco.  By the time your kids are teens, they have been exposed hundreds, if not thousands, of times to tobacco.  They are already friends with tobacco.  According to Dr. Hummel there is a strong relationship between “the amount of movie smoking to which teenagers are exposed and the likelihood that they will begin smoking.”

This Sunday you probably won’t hear someone say “And the Phlegmmy Award goes to…” but if they did, The Artist may just receive the award.  This Oscar contender for Best Picture is set during the time of silent movies of the 1930s and smoking is used to create a mood, and in place of talking.  A lot.  So much so that the movie earned a four-butt rating.  Truthfully, smoking could have been left out and no one would have missed it.

You don’t have to wait for Dr. Hummel to rate a movie, you can rate one yourself by printing out his scoring sheet and guidelines, then fax or email the completed form to him.  Check his site for a list of movies still waiting for reviews.  You can also hear Dr. Hummel talk about tobacco in the movies during one of our town meetings on our site, TobaccoPreventionTraining.org

What a great idea for a classroom lesson on the tobacco in movies!

Check out this compilation of smoking scenes from Disney movies.  

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