Anti-smoking groups are fuming about the alleged health risks to kids posed by Rango, a PG-rated animated feature with tobacco imagery.
Multiple characters use cigars and a cigarette in the film, released by Paramount and Nickelodeon last Friday. The hero, a chameleon, swallows a cigar being smoked by bullying gila monster Bad Bill, and then breathes/burps fire into his face.
"While some in the film industry have taken preliminary steps to protect young audiences by making more movies smoke-free, Paramount's decision to include smoking in a movie designed for kids is really troubling," Cheryl G. Healton, president and CEO of Legacy, said Monday.
Legacy is an organization dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and where anyone can quit.
"The public health community has made great progress in making every studio aware of the harm to America's youth when they release films with smoking and animated films are no exception," Healton said. "Even the cartoon Joe Camel has long been barred from reaching children to sell cigarettes. So it is a mystery why Hollywood's masters of storytelling and visual effects have not found a better way to depict their characters without the danger of influencing young people to light up."
Rigorous research finds grade-schoolers exposed to on-screen smoking are more likely to start smoking as teens. Researchers have also found that each instance of bad guys' smoking in films has more impact on teens than good guys' smoking. A surprising number of kid-rated movies feature cigars, attractive to new young smokers.
"While the incidence of smoking in the movies has declined in recent years, the presence of smoking in a youth-oriented cartoon like Rango underscores the need for Hollywood to take stronger, mandatory action to protect our children. It's time for the Motion Picture Association of America to require an R-rating for movies that depict smoking," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
In 2007, 31 state attorneys-general wrote Paramount and other movie companies, "[E]ach time a member of the industry releases another movie that depicts smoking, it does so with the full knowledge of the harm it will bring to children who watch it.... [E]liminate the depiction of tobacco smoking from films accessible to children and youth. There is simply no justification for further delay."
"Based on the evidence, on-screen smoking is one of the biggest media dangers to children," said American Academy of Pediatrics president Dr. O. Marion Burton. "There is no safe level of exposure. Parents should closely monitor tobacco content in the movies their kids watch, using online resources independent of the film industry. And companies delivering that exposure should immediately and fully embrace responsible policies, such as the R-rating, considered to be effective by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
Rango's release with a "PG" rating and fine-print "smoking" descriptor comes four years after the MPAA began adding "smoking" labels to a fraction of wide-release PG and PG-13 films with smoking. Harvard School of Public Health, in a policy review commissioned by the MPAA, had warned that such labels were "cynical."
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
Smoke Free Movies, based at the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, works to end the U.S. film industry's utility to the global tobacco industry.
In an e-mailed statement, Paramount spokesperson Virginia Lam said that images of smoking in Rango "are portrayed by supporting characters and are not intended to be celebrated or emulated."
Paramount "takes the issue of smoking seriously and we've been responsive to the concerns of anti-tobacco groups," she said, adding that the company has increased its number of tobacco-free films by 25% since 2007.
Re: Smoking in "Rango" accused of health risk to kids
[In reply to]
Right on Dave. Why do all these fools take parents out of the equation? It is not Paramounts job to raise my kids, or insure they grow up in the most PC world possible. Good, responsible parents who are raising their kids 24/7 can easily negate two hours in a theater.