Monday, May 21, 2007 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Making a Stink about Smoking in Movies

(I had a major computer meltdown last week, so I’m a little late getting to this issue but..) The MPAA recently announced that it will take into account depictions of smoking in a movie when considering its rating. Apparently, it will now be more likely that a movie’s rating is more stringent if we see characters lighting up on screen.

Private ratings systems occasionally evolve to take into account changing societal norms, but this recent change to the MPAA system seems to be influenced more by politics. Excuse the pun, but there’s obviously a lot of groups out there today that make a stink about smoking. They are certainly welcome to pressure movie producers and other media providers to eliminate smoking from their art, but when they threaten government regulation as an alternative it’s an entirely different matter.

One wonders where the line will be drawn now that smoking has been deemed worthy of an “R” rating. Would a serious drama depicting drug or alcohol abuse that contained no other offending material also automatically qualify for a higher rating? If not, why not?

The best way to address this issue is with more education, not censorship. There has been no shortage of education campaigns and PSAs about the dangers of smoking over the past decades. Those efforts have made a difference. Smoking is less glamorous than ever before and the risks of smoking are widely understood. Critics should stick to those efforts instead of threatening artists with regulation if they don’t purge any depictions of smoking from their craft.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:34 PM | Free Speech