Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The R-rating for Smoking? It could happen.

I must preface this by saying that I don't smoke, and I've never smoked.

Mississippi State University and the American Medical Association have released the findings of a joint study they've done which claims that 81 percent of the adults surveyed believe that teens seeing smoking in movies will encourage them to start the habit.

And you know what.... I seriously doubt the findings. I mean, I want to know how that question was phrased. For all I know they could have asked it this way:

Do you think that there is any possibility, however slight, that seeing someone famous in a movie smoking could encourage a weakminded and misguided teen to consider smoking?

...or something similar.

Come to think of it, why should anyone really care what non-experts BELIEVE is a cause. Believing something is so does not a causal link make. I mean, I could say that I believe that every child should have a pet so they would be better parents, my belief doesn't make pet ownership = better parenting.

To me, it just seems that this whole thing is being used to push an certain agenda.

If this study was just the lone piece of news about the issue, then it wouldn't have warranted a mention from me. However, a second figure chills me to the bone.

That figure is that 70 percent of that same surveyed group thought that if a movie contains smoking in it, it should be rated R. I will say that again. If a movie has smoking in it, it should be only viewable by adults and accompanied minors.

So let me put this in perspective with a quote from the MPAA guidelines: "Any drug use content will initially require at least a PG-13 rating". So basically, casual smoking in the minds of these parents and groups like Smoke Free Movies is worse than casual drug use.

I understand SFM's aims as something that is aimed more at paid tobacco company product placement and that in some contexts(like a historical one, which is one of my major arguments against a hard and fast rating based on this criteria alone.) they are willing to give filmmakers a break, but I am still uncomfortable with the idea of smoking being something that would automatically raise a film's rating to make it for adult audiences only. I would be more comfortable with it being a factor yes, but as a legal substance, I don't think such a restriction should be imposed across the board.

I plan on starting a dialogue with members of SFM's in a respectful manner to settle a few things for myself, so I plan on continuing on this topic in the near future.


Greg said...

Eh, big deal. Everything I know I learned from teen movies. And look how I turned out!

Besides, smoking makes you look cool anyway. lol. ttyl.

Ben said...

You forget that you're not the average teen. You seem pretty bright. There's a good chance you were pretty bright as a teen too.

I'm amazed 80% of all teens don't die before adulthood. They're borderline retarded. Does it warrant an R rating? I don't know. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that teens are easily influenced by actors, though.

Don't believe me? Go to a mall, and sit near a group of teens just hanging out. Write down some of what you overhear. I personally guarantee** you'll have some excellent blogging fodder for a long time.

**worthless, without value, not a guarantee.

Schadenfreude said...

Okay, wait a minute. So let's say you have a movie where the main character is a smoker and is dying of lung cancer, and part of the story is that this person wants to make sure other people don't smoke and go through the hell he's going through. This should get an R rating and thereby cut down on the number of impressionable young adults that actually see it?

This just seems like the wrong venue to focus on the anti-smoking fight. I'm an ex-smoker and I don't want people to go and digitally remove the smoking from Casablanca just so it won't seem so cool now or make we want to light up when I watch it.

This would be silly if it weren't so wrong.

Jeremy said...

It's a slippery slope. Should a movie get an R if it shows underage drinking? What about not wearing a seatbelt? How about littering? I don't need a ratings board to me a moral arbiter for society, especially for something that isn't even illegal.

MC said...

greg: Knowing that you learned everything you know from teen movies may come in handy for me one day...

Ben: But teens are also influenced by their peers, social setting, and a wide variety of other factors as well. I know teens aren't the most rational and centered of beings as a group, but at the same time, I also realize that by making something more heavily stigmatized, it is making that very same thing more attractive to them.

Schad: From the Smoke Free Movies website I learned that they were rather upset that "The Insider" got an R rating because of language, as they felt that the MPAA was protecting the tobacco lobby and making the movie unavailable for viewing at schools. There objection is that smoking is portrayed as glamourous and you don't see the consequences of using those products. Of course, the question becomes, who gets to make the decision over whether a smoker is portraying the product in a positive light.

Jeremy: I fear a return of something akin to the Hays Code myself.