An anti-smoking crusade is being taken to movie companies by shareholders who are filing resolutions asking that movies designed for young people eliminate smoking or have R ratings.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), one of the leaders of the effort, notes a recent U.S. Surgeon General report that says smoking depicted in movies causes more young people to take up smoking.
Shareholders of several major movie companies have filed resolutions asking that the companies give movies depicting smoking an R rating or eliminate smoking from movies anticipated to get a G, PG, or PG-13 rating. Shareholder resolutions have been filed with Time Warner, CBS and Comcast. Similar resolutions are to be filed with The Walt Disney Co., News Corp, Sony and Viacom, according to ICCR and As Your Sow, a nonprofit organization that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy.
Attorneys general in 38 states have written to media companies with similar requests, according to ICCR.
“Investors are concerned about the financial, legal, and reputation risks these studios may bear due to the health impact on children and teens that are exposed to smoking in the movies they watch,” says Cathy Rowan, director of socially responsible investments for Trinity Health, an ICCR member.
Tobacco use in youth rated movies increased in 2011 by 34 percent, says Michael Passoff, senior strategist at As You Sow.
Disney, Time Warner and Comcast reduced youth rated tobacco incidents in their movies to nearly zero in 2010 but the incidence shot back up in 2011, according to the organizations.
The exceptions the organizations would allow would be for historical accuracy and for anti-smoking movies.
Not everyone agrees with the stance of the advocacy organizations. Movie maker James Cameron has said movies should depict reality and some characters need to be seen doing things that are bad for them, like Sigourney Weaver’s scientist in Avatar who is depicted smoking, drinking and swearing.