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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today said The Weinstein Company (TWC) will be the first motion picture firm to embed anti-smoking public service announcements (PSAs) in DVD versions of movies that depict smoking.
“Bob and Harvey Weinstein deserve great credit for taking a leadership role in helping to fight youth smoking, which remains one of the most serious public health problems facing communities across the country,” said Lockyer. “I and other state Attorneys General have been working with Hollywood studios to implement this PSA initiative as an important and meaningful protection for our children. I congratulate the Weinsteins for taking that all-important first step.”
Said Bob and Harvey Weinstein: “We are very proud to be the first to sign onto this important initiative. The Attorney General made a very sensible request, and we think the concept has a lot of merit. Hopefully, our company’s decision to move forward will make other studios reconsider the idea.”
Harvey Weinstein added, “As a former smoker, I feel like it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to educate young people about the dangers of smoking. We really hope this initiative will have an impact with viewers across the country.”
Beginning with the December 2006 DVD release of “Clerks II,” TWC’s upcoming DVDs will include an anti-smoking ad created by the American Legacy Foundation (ALF). A tobacco-use prevention and cessation organization created by the 1998 tobacco litigation Master Settlement Agreement, ALF has produced three PSAs for movie studios to insert in DVDs.
Titled “Body Bags,” “1200,” and “Shards O’ Glass,” the messages have been audience-tested and proven to be effective with youths. The “1200' PSA will run in the “Clerks II” DVD. All three PSAs – developed for the ALF’s “truth” campaign – can be viewed at http://www.thetruth.com/.
In taking the action announced today, TWC responded to a September 2006 letter sent by Lockyer and 40 other state Attorneys General to Hollywood’s 13 major motion picture companies. In the letter, the Attorneys General made the anti-smoking PSAs available at no cost for the studios’ unlimited use with DVDs and other home viewing formats.
The letter was sent to the chief executive officers of the major studios, including Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Company, Miramax Films, DreamWorks SKG, Sony Pictures Entertainment, MGM Pictures, Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers Studios, Fox Filmed Entertainment and New Line Cinema. The recipients also included TWC and two other independent studios: Lionsgate and MTV Network. To date, only TWC has responded to the September offer.
Cheryl G. Healton, ALF president and chief executive officer, said, “Our hope is that the Weinsteins’ bold move sets a trend with other decision makers in Hollywood. It is a simple way to prevent thousands of youth from smoking, and can ultimately reduce tobacco addiction and premature death.'
Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Studies show 80 percent of adult smokers start smoking before age 18. Additionally, research has demonstrated teens are strongly influenced by seeing actors they idolize smoke on screen, regardless of the characters they play.
And in June 2003, a research team from the Dartmouth Medical School published a study that showed exposure to smoking in movies has a significant impact on youth initiation of smoking. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the study found that children ages 10-14 who watched the highest amount of smoking in movies were nearly three times more likely to start smoking than those children who observed the least amount of smoking in movies.
While recognizing the need for further research, the Dartmouth team concluded: “The effect of exposure to movie smoking is important, both because the effect on smoking initiation is moderately strong and because the exposure is almost universal. Based on the lists of 50 randomly selected movies, only zero to two percent of participants were unexposed to movie smoking. If the link between exposure to smoking in movies and smoking initiation proves to be causal, our data suggest that eliminating adolescents’ exposure to movie smoking could reduce smoking initiation by half.”
It is against this evidentiary backdrop that the Attorneys General have asked the major studios, and the Motion Picture Association of America, to show youth smoking prevention PSAs in theaters and on DVDs before films that depict smoking. The Attorneys General also have asked the National Association of Theater Owners and its members to run such messages in their theaters.