Youth smoking is not film’s responsibility

In an era where the importance of cinema attendance seems to be in continual decline, proposing that all movies depicting smoking should be rated R is straight up outrageous.

Many believe film to be the biggest influence as to why young adults gravitate towards smoking, while completely overlooking the fact that peer pressure is the bigger issue at the moment.

Researchers in the U.S. used data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health of more than 20,000 teenagers to determine which influences made them most likely to start smoking.Teenagers who had at least two friends who smoked were more than six times as likely to become intermittent smokers than those whose friends didn’t smoke.These teenagers were also 10 times more likely than others to go from intermittent smoking to daily smoking.

People can be exposed to the reality of smoking from a young age within the world; going to see a movie with a few smoking scenes is not going to change much.

Advocates for R ratings such as the Motion Picture Association of America argue two effects: R-rating would dramatically reduce the number of young people who would be exposed to smoking scenes in movies and it would act as a major disincentive to movie producers to include smoking scenes because R rated movies attract smaller audiences. These producers would thus self-censor smoking scenes after doing the box office math.

These statements are based on questionable assumptions and calculations.

Researchers at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College held a two year study which surveyed more than 6,500 young teenagers aged 10 to 14, asking them which of a random selection of box-office hits they had seen in the previous year. They also asked whether they had ever tried smoking. The kids were interviewed three more times over two years, and not surprisingly the researchers say, teenagers who watched movies with more smoking scenes were more likely to try smoking themselves.

The new study was conducted in July 2012 and was published in 2013 in the journal “Pediactrics,” but what they failed to mention was that 40 percent of the films involved in this case were R-rated already. The same research team has also shown that 81 percent of U.S. adolescents are allowed to watch R-rated movies.

If youth who are already watching a lot of R-rated movies allegedly start smoking because of exposure to smoking in movies, how would an R-rating reduce such exposure?

Moving movies with smoking to R-rating would put the pressure on parents to regulate their children’s viewing. Few would disagree with that. So why would parents regulate their children’s viewing more, due to concern about smoking in movies, than they do now, out of concern of exposure to strong violence and explicit sex in R-rated movies?