Action! Smoking on the big screen gets some pediatricians all firedup

May 17, 2006

Pediatricians are getting fed up with how much they still seecharacters smoking in motion pictures, reports Stanton A. Glantz,PhD, professor of medicine at the University of San Francisco.Speaking at a podium session at the Pediatric Academic Societies2006 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, on April 29, Dr. Glanz wenton to call smoking in films "a continuing danger to today'syouth."

Pediatricians are getting fed up with how much they still see characters smoking in motion pictures, reports Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of San Francisco. Speaking at a podium session at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2006 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, on April 29, Dr. Glanz went on to call smoking in films "a continuing danger to today's youth."

Over the years, Dr. Glantz has since used 34 paid advertisements in the film industry's trade publication, Variety, to get his message across. His Smoke-Free Movies campaign has four main goals for the motion picture industry: apply an "R" rating to new movies that show smoking; have producers post a certificate in the closing credits declaring that nobody from the cast and crew received anything of value, including money, free cigarettes or other gifts, or free publicity from the tobacco industry; require strong antismoking ads to run before any movie that portrays characters smoking; and stop identifying tobacco products on-screen by their brand name.

Dr. Glantz's campaign to persuade the motion picture industry to remove smoking from youth-related films was launched in 1980 with the release of Superman II, in which Lois Lane smokes and Superman bursts through a Marlboro billboard to save the day.

Dr. Glantz's hope is that his campaign will put the problem out in the open, promote discussion, and, ultimately, lead to change.

That talk was followed by an analysis by James D. Sargent, MD, of the department of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School. Speaking about the media's influence on adolescent smoking, Dr. Sargent said that, although there has been a downward turn in the portrayal of smoking in movies between 1996 and 2005, there is still a lot of ground to gain: If movies that featured smoking were to get an "R" rating, he proposed, it would eliminate 60% of smoking occurrences in adolescents—adding up to approximately 200,000 fewer smokers annually.

Following Dr. Sargent was Dana Best, MD, MPH, of Children's National Medical Center, who spoke about the Smoke Free Homes Project, a national effort to train pediatric clinicians in brief, effective methods to reduce children's secondhand smoke exposure through parental smoking cessation and hard reduction. The project is a collaborative effort of the AAP, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), the AAP's Center for Child Health Research (CCHR), and Children's National Medical Center.

Resources provided to pediatricians by the Smoke Free Homes Project include access to the resources of a Web site, www.kidslivesmokefree.org, that features news, alerts on tobacco and secondhand smoke, and a professional's toolbox with links to downloadable materials; school curricula and training materials aimed at reducing children's exposure to second-hand smoke (a collaborative effort with Massachusetts General Hospital's CEASE (Clinical Effort Against Secondhand Smoke Exposure Program, found at www.ceasetobacco.org); and an on-line CME curriculum for pediatric providers.