R for Tobacco

|

This week the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the threat that cinematic depictions of smoking pose to the nation's youth. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and other senators want Hollywood to make fewer movies that depict smoking and to put an R rating on those that do. The Motion Picture Association of America's Jack Valenti rejected both suggestions, saying directors should be free to include smoking in their films when they think it's appropriate and that taking smoking into account in rating movies would open the door to criteria based on all sorts of agendas: Does the film include characters who overeat, litter, fail to recycle, speed, talk back to their parents?

The hearing highlighted a study supposedly showing that watching movies in which people smoke makes kids more likely to pick up the habit. "The data indicated that half the adolescents who initiated smoking in this study did so because of viewing smoking in movies," the lead author testified. "These results confirm prior research by providing strong evidence that viewing smoking in movies promotes smoking initiation among adolescents." As I noted when the study came out, this is a highly questionable reading of the results. An alternative interpretation is that the sort of kids who watch a lot of R-rated movies (which are more likely to feature smoking) are more inclined to smoke than the sort of kids who mainly watch PG or PG-13 movies.

It sounds like the highlight of the hearing was when anti-smoking activist Stanton Glantz asked, "When are we going to treat smoking as seriously as we treat the word fuck?" Ensign scolded Glantz for violating the Senate's decorum, and Glantz apologized but added that he said the word "deliberately." And he'll say it again if he has to, so Hollywood had better watch out.

[Thanks to Linda Stewart for the link.]

NEXT: Sivits' Cops a Plea

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. dhex: fuck the breeders

    translation: the moral righteousness and indignation of parents is often irritating

  2. dhexd: the moral righteousness and indignation of parents is often irritating.

    Children are often irritated or confused by the actions of their parents (adults).

    The thing is that an Adult understands what it is to be a child, whereas a child does not understand what it is to be an Adult (a parent).

  3. I remember going directly to the store to buy my first pack after seeing River Phoenix light up in “Stand By Me” – “…I scammed two Winstons from my old man…nothin’ like a smoke after a meal.” right.

    Legislating morality is never a good idea…

  4. coming soon, R ratings for cinematic depictions of:

    – kids skipping school (Ferris Bueler needs to be R!)
    – kids not doing their homework
    – anyone eating fatty foods or at McDonalds
    – any bullying or insensitive behavior
    – any crime or drug use

  5. As an aside, I have to give Kudos to Arthur C. Clarke. He wrote a book called something like Ghost from the Grand Banks, which was not some of his best work, about raising the Titanic. All the teams where led by billionaires who had made their money in different ways. I remember that one made his money digitally removing cigarettes and smoking from old movies due to radical inreases in anti-smoking public presuires. I thought it was rediculous at the time.

  6. heh, good one! that’s exactly the sort of snootiness i was referring to.

  7. “The thing is that an Adult understands what it is to be a child, whereas a child does not understand what it is to be an Adult (a parent).”

    I know lots of adults (parents) who seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be a child.

  8. If Stanton Glantz told me the sun rose in the east I would fact check it with three sources.

  9. Dr. Glantz is an accomplished biostatistican, his “Primer on Biostatistics” being one of the most accessible books on the subject I’ve ever read.

    I am astonished, then, at how easily he forgets the distinction between correlation and causation when the topic at hand happens to be smoking. “The data indicated that half the adolescents who initiated smoking in this study did so because [emphasis added] of viewing smoking in movies…”

    Please. Even if children are so impressionable, it isn’t as though the researchers could control their “exposure to smoking” through other sources (movies not on the list, TV, and oh yeah…real life) over the time period the study covers.

  10. Isn’t it odd that Rebublicans used to complain so bitterly about HRC’s who “it takes a village to raise a child” bullshit amounted to “nanny statism,” but they’re more than willing to use the almighty power of the state to reguate personal matters (like smoking or “dirty” language) in the defense of “the family.”

    I say screw the children, We should be a nation of adults, for adults, and by adults.

  11. Isn’t it odd that Rebublicans used to complain so bitterly about HRC’s “it takes a village to raise a child” bullshit amounted to “nanny statism,” but they’re more than willing to use the almighty power of the state to reguate personal matters (like smoking or “dirty” language) in the defense of “the family.”

    I say screw the children, We should be a nation of adults, for adults, and by adults.

  12. dude: Legislating morality is never a good idea…

    I consider murder, theft, and rape immoral.

    So would you assert that we shouldn?t have any laws against murder, theft, or rape? Wouldn’t those also be examples of “Legislating Morality”?

    Either you don?t know what you are talking about, or you aren?t articulating your thoughts very well.

    dhex: heh, good one! that’s exactly the sort of snootiness i was referring to.

    It was more a statement of the obvious, but perhaps you should stick to comic books?

    Isaac Bartram: I know lots of adults (parents) who seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be a child.

    My point is (was) that adults have experienced childhood, whereas, children have not experienced adulthood (or parenthood, more specifically).

  13. Whoops, sorry about the double post.l

  14. All movies will eventually be rated R and then we can forget the whole fuckin’ charade.

    If the kids are on Ritalin like they’re supposed to be, they won’t need to smoke.

  15. ahh, but dear snake, it is also obviously snooty. parents are Adults. non parents are children.

    even a comic book reader such as yourself can see the distinction.

  16. Serpent – I personally consider those immoral. Murder, rape and theft are infringements on anothers life, liberty and pursuit of happiness which is why there are and should be laws against them. Whether they are in and of themselves against an individuals personal morality needn’t enter into it. Once the government starts legislating on “it’s” morals is when we get into trouble. My liberty ends where anothers nose begins – I don’t think the goverment should go further than legislating to make sure my excercise of liberty stays within those bounds and doesn’t impede anothers.

  17. “So would you assert that we shouldn?t have any laws against murder, theft, or rape? Wouldn’t those also be examples of “Legislating Morality”?”

    I’ll concede that law is codified morality, however the question boils down to “who’s morality?” So much of what politican’s (especially on the right) claim to be “morality” is wraped up in their religion or the faith of the people who vote for them. Of course, writing religion into law is a clear violation of the First Amendement (“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion…”), but since when are we going to let a little thing like The Bill Of Rights get in the way of making America “moral.”

    You can have secular reasons for forbidding murder, theft, rape, etc. that faithful and unfaithful can agree are “moral.” However if you think that forbidding abortion or treating homosexuals like second-class citizen (if they’re treated well at all) fits your definition of “morality” then we’ve got a problem because not everyone shares Pat Robertson’s or Jerry Fawell’s notions of what is right and wrong. I don’t, and I would object to anti-abortion or anti-gay laws even though I am neither a woman or homosexual.

    So when people like dude say “You can’t legislate morality,” what I think they’re implying is that “You can’t legislate religion-based morality.” With that, I can most certainly agree.

  18. PS – Serpent – I may or may not consider consuming alcohol immoral – many people do. That doesn’t mean it should be illegal – so long as it doesn’t harm someone else. That’s why drinking is legal and drinking and driving isn’t, as it should be. My detemination of whether it’s moral or not doesn’t and shouldn’t enter into it’s lawfulness or unlawfulness. Therefore, legislating morality isn’t a good idea.

  19. Thanks Mark S. But I’d take it further than religious morality. I may very well think drinking alcohol is immoral (which I don’t) because I may think it’s unhealthful and causes problems in relationships or whatever and I can be the most secular person around. i.e. my personal moral code doesn’t have to be religion based. But it still shouldn’t be legislated.

  20. [I consider murder, theft, and rape immoral.

    So would you assert that we shouldn?t have any laws against murder, theft, or rape? Wouldn’t those also be examples of “Legislating Morality”?]

    No, we legislate against these crimes because they are direct abridgements of Life, Liberty, and (or) Pursuit of Happiness — the guarantee of which is the reason our government exists.

  21. It was more a statement of the obvious, but perhaps you should stick to comic books?
    ———————————- The Serpent

    What a wonderful world we now live in. Imagine, a mere half century ago, Dr. Wertham wrote Seduction Of The Innocent, conclusively proving that the reading of “crime comic books” caused juvenile delinquency. Now that the readership of those foul pamphlets has fallen from a mass market ritual of childhood, to become the province of a few adolescents and the hobby of a few grown men, crime by minors has virtually disappeared in our fair land!

    And I’m Marie of Romania.

    When I was a schoolkid, in the 60’s & 70’s, I watched countless old black & white flicks where characters, good, bad and indifferent, routinely smoked. At the same time, anti-smoking ads were run, anti-smoking articles ran in the newspapers and magazines, and anti-smoking stories filled the printed and broadcast news. Silly me, I believed the non-fiction, and never took up cigarettes. I like cigars and pipes, but have never made a habit of them.

    Of course, todays teens are probably taking up smoking to piss off their self-righteous boomer parents.

    Kevin

  22. Personally, I think people take the work “fuck” way too seriously already.

  23. Fuckin’ A.

  24. Would stoner humor also mandate an R rating?

    Because that would mean that movies like….

    dude, what was I talking about?

  25. Zymurgist: Personally, I think people take the work “fuck” way too seriously already.

    translation: I have no children.

  26. As my Rice Krispies used to say, if you’re sorry, you won’t do it again.

  27. Next, they’ll be required to digitally remove cigarettes from movies like Casablanca before being allowed to show them on TV.

  28. SERPENT: (paraphrased) People who don’t get flapped up over the word Fuck are people who don’t have children.

    SinC: I have three, now 21, 18 and 16.

    In all three cases, I can define a specific moment in time when our relationship became more open and yes, closer. And that is when they first used profanity in my presence and I didn’t react in a critical manner.

    The incident with the 16 year old daughter is freshest in my mind. About two years ago, she and I had a disagreement about my wanting her to join us for a gathering and her not wanting to participate. After much conversational give and take and increasing tension, she spouts, “I’m NOT FUCKING GOING”.

    For just a moment, I was startled..and then I grinned and said something like, “Wow, check out the f-bomb blast! How long have you been saving that one up for me?”

    It defused the entire situation (she did end up not attending) and since then she (and her older two brothers after similar incidents) sure seem to communicate with me like adults talking to adults.

    And 99% free of any the lightest profanity or cursing, since after all, I don’t use it much and they have learned that around me at least it’s usually gratuitous and adds nothing to the moment.

    How can I be a supposed defender of free expression and at the same time strongly denounce the use of a word or phrase for no more reason than ‘that’s a bad word’.

  29. The Serpent said:
    “Children are often irritated or confused by the actions of their parents (adults).

    The thing is that an Adult understands what it is to be a child, whereas a child does not understand what it is to be an Adult (a parent).”

    Serpent, I find your equating adulthood with parenthood troubling. Enemies of freedom often use overbroad definitions of childhood to justify infringement of personal freedom. Neo-prohibitionist groups such as CASA and MADD refer to young adults aged 18-20 as “children” or “kids.” (see http://www2.potsdam.edu/alcohol-info/YouthIssues/1048679770.html or https://reason.com/sullum/030102.shtml) Handgun Control, Inc. uses murder statistics involving victims under age 20 to say that gun control is necessary to protect children, ignoring the fact that their statistics include 18- and 19-year-olds, who aren’t children. (See https://reason.com/9307/kopel.shtml)
    I am 30 years old. I work full time, volunteer in my community, vote, pay taxes, report for jury duty, registered for selective service, and am paying my way through graduate school. Yet, simply because I have avoided conceiving children that I don’t have the resources to rear properly, you contend that I am not an adult. Which of my liberties do you want to take from me, based upon that contention?

  30. dude: I never made the moral determination that one cannot harm themselves (you did). I think there’s plenty of evidence that people can and in fact do. I’m not sure I understand how this enters into the discussion anyway.

    Explain how an individual can deliberately harm themselves?

    Is smoking a cigarette harmful to the Individual if that individual derives pleasure (i.e. benefit) from smoking?

    How about suicide? I would argue that an Individual commits suicide to escape some form of pain or suffering. In other words, suicide is not a mechanism for harming oneself, but instead is a mechanism for avoiding harm.

    Beneficial and Harmful are opposites. If something is beneficial, it cannot be simultaneously harmful to the same individual.

    Now, I would concede that some actions can appear beneficial when in fact they are harmful in reality, but that gets us back to my point about one Individual deliberately harming another through action.

    dude: Bottom line – our free country was founded on axioms that individuals have the right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness. Axioms meaning they are not up for debate – not morals which are always up for debate.

    Semantics are always up for debate.

    dude: Morals are simply a code of values an individual believes will expedite their pursuit of happiness. So long as those morals don’t infringe on another?s inalienable rights, you’re free in this country to exercise that moral code.

    I agree.

    dude: Show me a fair law that doesn’t have a direct link to the inalienable rights.

    I?m not sure I understand the question? My point has been that we do not have a magic crystal ball that tells us what is moral or immoral in reality. Each individual only has their own (flawed and subjective) beliefs to go on.

  31. Serpent – “My point has been that we do not have a magic crystal ball that tells us what is moral or immoral in reality. Each individual only has their own (flawed and subjective) beliefs to go on.”

    Wow. That’s an argument that lacks a conclusion but your argument I believe supports my conclusion of not basing law on morality, but on the axiom of basic rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. So, are you saying that we should base our laws on morals that are based on changing perceptions of reality. And as someone said before, who’s morals do we base law on.

    Probably best to pack my things and slowly steal away. We’re definately not getting anywhere here.

    At this point, I think it’s best to pack my things and slowly steal away – you’re offering me no logic or connection to

  32. Serpent – “Explain how an individual can deliberately harm themselves?”

    Ever watch Jack Ass?

  33. Dude: Serpent – I personally consider those immoral. Murder, rape and theft are infringements on another?s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness which is why there are and should be laws against them.

    Is there a subjective criteria, or an objective one?

    Dude: Whether they are in and of themselves against an individuals personal morality needn’t enter into it.

    I disagree.

    Why do you assert that infringements on another?s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are not moral judgments?

    When you incarcerate a rapist aren?t you infringing on his life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?

    Dude: Once the government starts legislating on “it’s” morals is when we get into trouble.

    What makes you assume that your opposition to ?Rape? isn?t a moral judgment?

    In other words, how did you determine that infringing on someone?s rights was immoral?

    Dude: My liberty ends where another?s nose begins – I don’t think the government should go further than legislating to make sure my exercise of liberty stays within those bounds and doesn’t impede another?s.

    Yes, but it sounds like you are talking about subjective moral judgments. How do you transform a subjective moral judgment into an Objective Law?

  34. Mark S.: I’ll concede that law is codified morality, however the question boils down to “who’s morality?”

    In a Democracy, I would assume it would be the Morality of the Majority ? wouldn?t You?

    Mark S.: So much of what politican’s (especially on the right) claim to be “morality” is wraped up in their religion or the faith of the people who vote for them.

    Well, a lot of people would assert that world religions tend to share more in common than they are different, but at the end of the day, shouldn?t ALL laws (ideally) reflect the beliefs and moral values of the Society where they apply?

    Mark S.: Of course, writing religion into law is a clear violation of the First Amendement (“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion…”)

    ? or prohibit the free exercise thereof.

    To assert that a government can be non-religious is absurd. When someone claims that they want a ?non-religious (or secular) government?, what they are really saying is that they want an intolerant Atheist Theocracy (i.e. Communism ultimately).

    Mark S.: but since when are we going to let a little thing like The Bill Of Rights get in the way of making America “moral.”

    The Individuals who founded this Country and wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were all generally Deists philosophically. Contrary to your absurd assertions they were not Atheists. Perhaps you are thinking of the Soviet Union?

    Mark S.: You can have secular reasons for forbidding murder, theft, rape, etc. that faithful and unfaithful can agree are “moral.

    A person who believes they are going to ?cease to exist? when they die treats the universe exactly as if that is what they believe.

    Whereas an Individual who believes that he will ultimately be held accountable for all of his actions tends to behave as if that is what he believes.

    Behavior is the purest (truest) manifestation of Belief.

    All conscious action is the result of rewards and punishments (positive and negative reinforcements).

    Mark S.: However if you think that forbidding abortion or treating homosexuals like second-class citizen (if they’re treated well at all) fits your definition of “morality” then we’ve got a problem because not everyone shares Pat Robertson’s or Jerry Fawell’s notions of what is right and wrong.

    If a population (a ?Society?) has an established set of Laws, traditions, and customs, then why would anyone who had a serious problem with those laws choose to live amongst that Society?

    In a Democracy there is a valid (moral) mechanism to change the Laws of the land. Either you are a part of that mechanism, or you are an enemy of it.

    Mark S.: I don’t, and I would object to anti-abortion or anti-gay laws even though I am neither a woman or homosexual.

    Well, I am guessing that you have never raped or murdered anyone either. Does that mean you object to the laws against murder and rape or not?

  35. Dude: I may or may not consider consuming alcohol immoral – many people do. That doesn’t mean it should be illegal – so long as it doesn’t harm someone else.

    That?s exactly right.

    In fact, I would argue that it is impossible for an individual to ever deliberately harm themselves.

    The problem is that it is definitely possible for an Individual to deliberately (i.e. knowingly) harm another Individual.

    Dude: That’s why drinking is legal and drinking and driving isn’t, as it should be.

    I couldn?t agree more.

    Dude: My determination of whether it’s moral or not doesn’t and shouldn’t enter into it’s lawfulness or unlawfulness. Therefore, legislating morality isn’t a good idea.

    Yes, but don?t you see that it is precisely your moral determination (that you cannot harm yourself) which brings you to this conclusion?

  36. I never made the moral determination that one cannot harm themselves (you did). I think there’s plenty of evidence that people can and in fact do. I’m not sure I understand how this enters into the discussion anyway.

    Bottom line – our free country was founded on axioms that individuals have the right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness. Axioms meaning they are not up for debate – not morals which are always up for debate. Morals are simply a code of values an individual believes will expedite their pursuit of happiness. So long as those morals don’t infringe on anothers inalienable rights, you’re free in this country to exercise that moral code.

    I don’t see any logic in your rebuttals. Show me a fair law that doesn’t have a direct link to the inalienable rights.

  37. Dude: Wow. That’s an argument that lacks a conclusion but your argument I believe supports my conclusion of not basing law on morality, but on the axiom of basic rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. So, are you saying that we should base our laws on morals that are based on changing perceptions of reality. And as someone said before, who’s morals do we base law on.

    We base our laws on the Morals of the Majority.

    In my mind that is the essence of Democracy. Are you saying you disagree, or have I misunderstood you?

    Where do you think Laws come from? You think we whip them up by ?magic??

    Do you think we have some giant Objective Computer program somewhere that generates our laws without subjective bias, or moral prejudice?

  38. I think you’re just trying to get me riled up. You’re extremely misguided on this topic. Laws are created to protect citizens rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness period.

    How do you propose to guage this “morality of the majority” you mention? By our elected officials? You’re going to let elected officials decide the moral code that guides your life? Do live in a different country?

    Think of the current no smoking in public places law. Do you think they’re trying to get that passed everywhere based on some moral majority? No way, to pass that law, they’re trying to prove that it violates the basic right to life – i.e. that it hurts others, second hand smoke etc. It has nothing to do with morality.

    This is 6th grade government class stuff. I’m not going to argue with you any longer, I’ll just let you be wrong…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.