Censoring movie depictions of smoking

by Walter Olson on August 20, 2010

“There has been a growing effort over the past decade from groups such as Smoke Free Movies and SceneSmoking.org, which hosts the annual Hackademy Awards, to pressure Hollywood into cutting back the amount of smoking in films. Now those groups are getting government support for their cause from US Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and from a group of health organizations, including Legacy, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization.” [Washington Post] Legacy, incidentally, is a group created as a result of the $246-billion state-Medicaid tobacco settlement whose purposes include pushing for further “tobacco control” — one of many examples in this area in which government-driven funding is employed to further advocacy on one side of controversial issues.

{ 11 comments }

1 Ben S 08.20.10 at 2:33 pm

While I’m not a fan of having elected officials endorse silly movie rating requirements, I don’t think smoking is either two-sided or controversial anymore.

2 Malcolm Smith 08.21.10 at 1:27 am

Perhaps now they can also get around to censoring the endless depictions of unchastity befouling the cinema.

3 Roy in Nipomo 08.21.10 at 6:08 am

The depictions of unchastity is “art.” It is the cigarette afterward that is viewed as immoral.

4 William Nuesslein 08.21.10 at 6:21 am

Ben S states that smoking is neither two-sided nor controversial anymore. Ben s paints with too wide a brush.

Smoking is bad for you was known to me in my teens long before the Surgeon general report. My dad’s hacking cough settled the matter in my mind. Those who get past adolescence with smoking are lucky indeed.

However we have theories that smoking results from evil tobacco companies, sweeping aside the fact that every people smoke, including the Chinese,and have long before any tobacco company existed.

We also have the exaggeration of the treat of second hand smoke. The risk of lung cancer from a lifetime of actual smoking is 30 times greater background. Somebody came up with a 0.3 factor for second hand smoke, an angel on the tip of a pin.

My dad said he was willing to trade longer life for the pleasure of smoking. Stomach cancer took him at age 72. Stomach cancer runs in the family and will likely take me. Should he have been denied his choice? Is it fair to tax smokers so heavily? There early deaths save Social Security and medicare billions.

I do not smoke and I do like my modern smoke free world. I don’t like Mayor Bloomberg’s nutty tyrannies.

5 Dennis 08.21.10 at 12:22 pm

One more case of the Nanny Nazis with nothing to do, making work for themselves.

6 John A 08.21.10 at 4:10 pm

These groups say that they do not want to see smoking glamorized/encouraged.

Well, OK. But they go too far. Filmmakers have already cut back on showing smoking – because US society does not do it as much as it used to, does not much care for it, and the people who make films are aware of this and the potential effect on the bottom line: being lectured, and possibly regulated, by outsiders is probably not necessary.

One of my favorite anecdotes is that in the hey-day of such as the Hays Comission, Chicago (not Boston!) once banned a Disney film as having overly-explicit sexual content. Which film? Nature documentary The Vanishing Prairie had a sequence showing the birth of a buffalo calf…

7 Jim Collins 08.22.10 at 11:04 am

Everybody seems to forget that until the 90′s the largest wholesaler of tobacco products was the US Federal Government, but I still haven’t seen them take any responsibility for it. I still have my cigarette ration card from when I was in the Navy in the 80′s.

8 Ray 08.22.10 at 12:53 pm

No one knows what causes cancer. The causal mechanism and etiology are unknown. Anybody that tells you this or that causes cancer or this or that will prevent or cure cancer is BSing you.
Here are the facts. In 1971 President Nixon signed the national cancer act and the National Cancer Institute was tasked to find the cause of cancer. They confidently predicted they would find the cause within 5 years, by 1976. Well, have you ever seen the NCI announce they have discovered the cause of cancer? The answer is no. The last time I checked they were confidently predicting they would discover the cause of cancer by 2015. Look at this NCI website, the next to last paragraph http://training.seer.cancer.gov/disease/war/ .

9 culdesachero 08.22.10 at 6:48 pm

Does this ban include hooka-smoking catepillars? Censorship is pointless if it isn’t retroactive. For shame.

I had a thought recently when the CMA (Canadian Medical Assoc.) stated that Mixed Martial Arts should be banned in Canada. If we listened to doctors and safety experts the only sports that would be “allowed” would be jogging, cycling (with helmets) and swimming (in shallow state-sanctioned pools) and tennis (despite the worry of tennis elbow). The only food would be grains and vegetables, chicken breast and fish. Boredom would become the number-one killer.

10 Leafs 08.23.10 at 10:53 am

Good luck on getting the Canadians to drop hockey and beer.

11 Michael J. McFadden 09.06.10 at 9:25 pm

Culdesachero wrote, “Does this ban include hooka-smoking catepillars? Censorship is pointless if it isn’t retroactive. ”

Actually C, I’ve seen complaints about the evil smoking caterpillar from some of the Antismokers out there. If they have their way he’ll become the “bubble-blowing caterpillar.” They took Churchill’s Cigar at the British Museum of Art, and gave Tutu’s bicycle riding detective a bright yellow pinwheel to clench between his teeth instead of a pipe. And now they’ve just given out a THREE MILLION DOLLAR grant to do a study on both smoking AND ALCOHOL use in films.

Just wait’ll you try to watch Casablanca someday with all smoking and drinking action, images, and paraphenalia computer fuzzed out.

The Crazies have taken over the antismoking movement with their total bans and concerns about thirdhand smoke and cigarettes causing fires on beaches (And no, they’re not talking Gulf of Mexico beaches.) To see the kind of lies they base some of this stuff on read my free “Stiletto” at:

http://kuneman.smokersclub.com/PASAN/StilettoGenv5h.pdf

They’ve gone beyond film and art already you know: Check out some of the newer editions of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. Good luck finding the boys smoking a pipe on the island. Sam Clemens must be spinning in his grave.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

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