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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced he has sent a letter to the heads of Hollywood motion picture studios offering them free, unlimited use of three anti-smoking public service announcements (PSA) to insert on DVDs, videos and other home viewing formats of movies that depict smoking.
"This may not be an offer they can’t refuse, but it should be an offer studio executives will be happy to accept,” said Lockyer. “Public service announcements already appear on DVDs for many worthwhile causes and organizations, and they are often linked to themes prevalent in the movies they precede. I’m pleased the industry has been willing to work cooperatively with Attorneys General to address our shared concern about the potential harm caused to young people’s health by exposure to tobacco use in movies. I’m hopeful the studios will take advantage of using these anti-smoking messages whenever the movie depicts smoking."
Along with the letter, Lockyer and 40 other Attorneys General sent each studio a DVD containing three anti-smoking messages created by the American Legacy Foundation, a tobacco-use prevention and cessation organization created by the 1998 tobacco litigation Master Settlement Agreement. The Attorneys General made the anti-smoking PSAs available at no cost for the studios’ unlimited use. Titled “Body Bags,” “1200,” and “Shards O’ Glass,” the messages have been audience-tested and proven to be effective with youths.
Today's letter was sent to the chief executive officers of the major studies, 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 the heads of three independent studios: Lionsgate, MTV Network and the Weinstein Company.
“We hope you will embrace this wonderful opportunity to deter young viewers of your movies from smoking – the leading cause of preventable death,” the Attorneys General said in the letter. While studies show the overall proportion of movies depicting tobacco use or imagery declined from 96 percent to 77 percent from 1996 to 2004, the letter notes, tobacco use continues to be shown in 73 percent of all youth-rated movies. The Attorneys General said they believe “running effective anti-smoking messages before movies that depict smoking is a strong, preventive measure that your studio can take now, without any possible impact on the creative process of filmmaking.”
Today’s letter marks the second time the Attorneys General have asked motion picture executives to include anti-smoking messages on home viewing formats of movies that depict smoking. The first request came in a November 14, 2005 letter to the heads of the major studios from Lockyer and 31 other Attorneys General. Ultimately, in response to the first letter, Motion Picture Association of America President Dan Glickman told the Attorneys General that only the individual companies could decide whether to run PSAs on DVDs or videos. He also said the industry would consider PSAs as one possible step in an overall anti-smoking campaign effort. The Attorneys General have received no further indication from the studios or MPAA of progress on an anti-smoking PSA campaign.
In June 2003, a research team from the Dartmouth Medical School published research that showed exposure to smoking in movies has a significant impact on youth initiation of smoking. The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, 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 study, the Dartmouth researchers 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.”
In addition to Lockyer, today’s letter was signed by the Attorneys General of the following 40 jurisdictions: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York,, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.