MPAA sharpens teeth on smoking depictions


MUMBAI: The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has announced that the rating system is enhancing the amount of information provided to parents on the issue of smoking in films.

Illegal teen smoking has been a factor in the rating of films thus far, along with other parental concerns such as sex, violence and adult language. Now, all smoking will be considered and depictions that glamorise smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating.

The MPAA oversees the Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) on a joint basis with the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman says, “The MPAA film rating system has existed for nearly 40 years as an educational tool for parents to assist them in making decisions about what movies are appropriate for their children. It is a system that is designed to evolve alongside modern parental concerns.”

“With that in mind, the rating board chaired by Joan Graves will now consider smoking as a factor— among many other factors, including violence, sexual situations and language—in the rating of films. Clearly, smoking is increasingly an unacceptable behavior in our society. There is broad awareness of smoking as a unique public health concern due to nicotine’s highly addictive nature, and no parent wants their child to take up the habit. The appropriate response of the rating system is to give more information to parents on this issue.”

“This action is an extension of our current practice of factoring under-age smoking into the rating of films. Now, all smoking will be a consideration in the rating process. Three questions will have particular weight for our rating board when considering smoking in a film: Is the smoking pervasive? Does the film glamorize smoking? And, is there an historic or other mitigating context? Additionally, when a film’s rating is affected by the depiction of smoking, that rating will now include phrases such as ‘glamorised smoking’ or ‘pervasive smoking.’ This ensures specific information is front and center for parents as they make decisions for their kids.”

“The rating board has comprehensively reviewed depictions of smoking in every rated film over the past several years. From July 2004 to July 2006, the percentage of films that included even a fleeting glimpse of smoking dropped from 60 per cent to 52 per cent. Of those films, 75 per cent received an ‘R’ rating for other factors. So, three out of every four films that contained any smoking at all over the past few years are already rated ‘R.’ “In our regular dialogue with parents, they frequently note that depictions of smoking in films have significantly declined in recent years. They often tell us that they cannot recall a recent incident in which they took their child to a G, PG or PG-13 film and found a scene involving smoking that was objectionable. Moreover, parents are very clear to us that they—not the industry and certainly not the government—should determine what is appropriate viewing for their kids. What they want is information, and that is the action we are now taking,” Glickman says.