Against Freedom, Against Art, Against Reality

The crusade against film depictions of tobacco smoking is once again gaining momentum. The American Medical Association Alliance, in coalition with several other well-funded special interests, has launched a campaign called “Which Movie Studios Will Cause the Most Youth to Start Smoking This Summer?” The campaign, among other things, calls for an automatic “R” rating for any movie that depicts tobacco smoking.

The New York Times reports:

Studios, under pressure from health groups, have been urging filmmakers to trim tobacco scenes but have balked at an outright ban, citing the need for artistic license. An association spokeswoman, Angela Belden Martinez, noted that the movie industry now includes antismoking announcements on DVDs.

“The industry understands the concerns of parents about smoking and takes them seriously,” Ms. Martinez said. “One of the great things about the ratings system is that it has evolved to reflect society.”

I can’t speak for everybody, but I know few film-goers enthusiastic over the looming prospect of public health busy-bodies deciding the artistic merit of the films they pay to see. Furthermore, according to the CDC, 20.8% of Americans 18-and-over smoke tobacco regularly. How are filmmakers supposed to present their stylized views of reality when they are asked to ignore an activity characteristic to more than a fifth of society? And don’t most children already see plenty of smoking outside the movies? Will there be an R-rating exemption for films with chain-smoking villains and anti-smoking heroes?

Also, check out CEI’s video on The Big Tobacco Deal’s 10th Anniversary.