Smoke-free movies

You might be surprised to find out how much your kids are really influenced by what they watch.  With the Oscars being the talk of the town this morning, I thought this would be a great opportunity to shed some light on the impact that smoking in movies can have on our children.

When I was growing up, Disney classics were an easy choice in terms of choosing a movie to watch as a family.  The stories were timeless; everyone was able to enjoy them; and the content was appropriate for all ages, right?  Today it seems like there are many more things to consider, and with how busy our lives are it’s really hard to keep up with what’s okay for our kids to watch.  Most times we rely on suggestions from friends or we look to see what the movie has been rated.  I’m sure many of you, like me, hope that movies rated G or PG will be okay for our children to watch.  On the other hand, this is not always the case.

The movie rating system in Ontario takes into account violence, nudity, language, etc.  However, there are many things that are not included or considered when assigning that movie rating.  One of these is smoking!

You may be asking yourself, why is smoking in movies an issue?  Research by many leading public health authorities has shown that smoking in movies rated G, PG and 14A can influence children and teens, and make them more likely to start smoking.  Whether smoking appeared in the background or foreground, whether it was a “good guy” or a “bad guy”, whether it appeared a lot, all at once, or a little over time, the influence was the same.  It is the buildup of smoking images in our children’s minds that counts.

The more times a child or teen sees smoking in movies the more likely they are to start. 

Why is this so important? 

  • Last year (2010-2011) in Ontario, 88 per cent of movies that included smoking scenes were rated G, PG or 14A (rated for a children and teen audience). This stat is troubling since we now know that the more youth see smoking in movies, the more likely they are to start.
  • We have seen the influence of Hollywood on pop culture and the choices that children and teens make.  Everything from the clothes that they wear, the haircuts they choose, to the words that they use.  Why would the influence of smoking be any different?
  • We also know how much money companies pay for product placement in movies. The tobacco industry’s own documents show the history of the relationship between the Tobacco Industry and Hollywood for tobacco logo/product placement and actors smoking in movies.
  • Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Ontario, killing 13,000 people a year.

Once you are aware of smoking in the movies you start to notice how often it is there.  Thinking back to those Disney classics, many of them had smoking in them.  Like 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and the list goes on.  At the time I didn’t even notice that there was smoking in the movies that I was watching.  Now that I am more aware I see it all the time.

What can be done?  The current rating system in Ontario does not consider smoking when assigning a rating for a movie.  By making changes to the current rating system, Ontario children and teens could be protected from starting a life-long tobacco addiction.  Imagine the impact if all future movies rated G, PG, or 14A would not contain any smoking or tobacco product images.

Do people support this issue?  YES!  Ontarians support smoke-free movies!  In March 2011, 77% of Ontarians surveyed supported not allowing smoking in movies rated for children and teens (G, PG, 14A).

What can I do?

  • Learn more.  Visit and learn more about the issue of smoking in the movies.
  • Be aware.  Pay attention to what your children are watching. To learn which movies have smoking in them visit the Hooked by Hollywood Facebook Page every Thursday for updates on newly released Ontario rated movies and their tobacco content (both in theatres and new to DVD, Blu-Ray and On-Demand) listed as smoke-free or not.
  • Talk with your children about tobacco and movies.  Teach them to be media aware.
  • Show your support. So that future movies rated for children and teens (G, PG, 14A) don’t have smoking or tobacco images.

Share your experience:

For more tips and hints about smoke free living, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About this guest blogger:

Celina Degano MPH, BPHE has been a Health Promoter in the Halton Region for 3 years.  Her work is currently focused on youth and young adult tobacco prevention.  When she is not at work she enjoys traveling, reading, and being active.

This entry was posted in Alcohol, Tobacco & Drugs, Children & Tweens, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Teen Safe, Keeping Your Toddler & Preschooler Safe, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Teens, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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