Canada Allowing Smoking in Youth-Rated Movies

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Up north of the border in Ontario, Canada, smoking claims the lives of 13,000 individuals each year. If more smokers quit or made the switch the less-harmful e cig then those numbers would almost certainly decrease; but with more than 67,000 of the province's residents aged 15 - 19 smoking, one group is looking into reversing the teen smoking trend.

To do so, they are targeting the cinema. It is no secret that movie producers have been paid handsomely by cigarette companies to portray their characters smoking on-screen. This is less of an issue in the United States today, but it still plagues the youth of Canada because of laxer rating requirements when it comes to smoking.


Evidence has proven that the more often youths see smoking in movies, the more likely they are to replicate the behavior. "Youth see actors and actresses as role-models and when they see smoking in films, it influences them to do the same," said Hassan Mahmood a Youth Health Action member.

"Smoking in movies is a form of product placement and media are powerful influencers to youth." The problem is exacerbated in Canadian provinces because many of the films with smoking in them are still awarded youth ratings. It is believed that this is causing more youths to take up the habit and is keeping many from giving it up or seeking out alternatives such as the electronic cigarette.

How much softer does Canada's Ontario Film Review Board go on the issue than the Motion Picture Association of America does? Our friendly neighbors to the north handed 88% of the top grossing pictures from May 2010 - June 2011 with tobacco content a youth-appropriate rating according to the Ontario Coalition for Smoke Free Movies. Stateside, just 57% of the same movies were rated G, PG or PG-13. That is a monstrous difference that is almost certainly affecting the children of Canada's view of smoking. Again, it is probable that the big screen smoking is keeping kids from turning away from smoking or turning to the e cigarette to get help quitting.

The Youth Health Action Network is pleading for a change to the rating system that would keep smoking out of kids' films. It is supported by health organizations on the local, national and international levels. That includes Toronto Public Health, the Ontario Coalition for Smoke Free Movies, the Canadian Cancer Society, the US Center for Disease control and the World Health Organization. With a backing like that, the movement is likely to succeed.

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