Reality Check youth from Tobacco-Free Western New York joined people from Ontario and New York in a series of cross-border events during the International Week of Action on Smoke-Free Movies.
Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies and the Reality Check Programs of Tobacco-Free Western New York hosted the events in Niagara Falls, New York, and Ontario. The regional youth organizations joined young people from around the world in an effort to create awareness about the way Hollywood movies encourage youth to use tobacco. The events coincided with the week leading up to the 87th Academy Awards.
"It's time for Hollywood to stop glamorizing smoking in the movies kids see," said Aubrianna Weber, 16, from Olean High School, a member of Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany (Tobacco-Free CCA). "Movies that contain smoking should have an 'R' rating, because smoking on screen kills in real life."
For more than 10 years, Reality Check programs throughout New York have been working to eliminate smoking in youth-rated movies by using an "R" rating. In 2014, 43 percent of PG-13 movies contained smoking.
"There is no better time to tell the film industry to stop showing tobacco imagery in PG-13 movies than when attention is on the Academy Awards," said Anthony Billoni, director of Tobacco-Free Western New York. "These on-screen images normalize and glamorize smoking."
"The tobacco imagery in movies matters, because most smokers start when they are young. Nearly 90 percent of smokers start before the age of 18. One important way to protect kids from the influence of smoking in movies is to give films that show smoking an 'R' rating," added Rachel Woock, Reality Check coordinator for Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara.
Young people from Tobacco-Free Western New York Reality Check participated in a number of events. They were joined by youth members of Roswell Park Cancer Institute's Yroswell Street Team, who supported the event as part of their mission to work toward a world without cancer.
On Friday, the American Falls were lit up in the color teal. Saturday, youth gathered on the Rainbow Bridge that connects Niagara Falls, New York, with Ontario to join hands creating an international human ribbon. Youth from both sides of the border wore teal ponchos and carried posters with messages that said all kids deserve to be protected from tobacco imagery in youth-rated movies. Helicopters overhead took photographs.
The Surgeon General's 2014 Report states youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke; and those who get the most exposure to on-screen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure. The report further states actions that would eliminate the depiction of tobacco use in movies could have a significant effect on preventing youth from becoming tobacco users. PG-13 movies are the biggest concern since they account for a majority of on-screen smoking.
For more information about the effects of tobacco marketing in movies, visit www.realitycheckofny.com.