Tobacco

Smoke Gets in Movie Raters' Eyes

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As Dave noted earlier this morning, the Motion Picture Association of America has announced that from now on its film ratings will take on-screen smoking by adults as well as minors into account. The concession falls short of the automatic R rating anti-smoking activists have demanded for any movie that depicts smoking. The MPAA's approach, on paper at least, is a little more nuanced:

[MPAA Chairman] Dan Glickman described the move as an extension of the MPAA's practice of factoring underage smoking into the rating of films. The ratings board will ask three questions, he said:

Is the smoking pervasive?

Does the film glamorize smoking?

Is there a historic or other mitigating context?

Also, when a film's rating is affected by the depiction of smoking, the rating will include such phrases as "glamorized smoking" or "pervasive smoking."

These criteria make more sense than the activists' standard, according to which a smoker who accidentally immolates himself or dies of lung cancer counts the same as a cool, suave smoker who's a sex machine to all the chicks. And whatever you think of the MPAA ratings' usefulness, consistency, or fairness, considering smoking is not inherently more problematic than considering drinking, illegal drug use, sex, violence, or profanity. Ostensibly, the MPAA is responding to the diverse values and concerns of parents who are trying to decide whether a particular movie is appropriate for their kids. Some parents presumably worry about glamorized cinematic smoking, just as others worry about casual, consequence-free sex. Even if the ratings board falls short of its customer-oriented ideal in practice, I much prefer this rationale to the pseudoscientific nonsense of activists who claim eliminating smoking from movies would cut tobacco use among teenagers in half.

[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]

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  1. I much prefer this rationale to the pseudoscientific nonsense of activists who claim eliminating smoking from movies cut tobacco use among teenagers in half.

    Of course you prefer it, because it would kill you to admit otherwise.

  2. Fuck the MPAA. Fuck ’em right in their ear.

  3. I am seriously thinking about starting smoking. Yeah, I know it is expensive and does cause lung cancer. But, everyone dies eventually and I am told it is a good way to loose weight. More crusade against smoking, it starting to make me think that it is my patriotic duty to take up smoking so that the nitwits who try to regulate public behavior can never have success stamping out what they consider undesirable behavior.

  4. hier. Fred and Barney. And Winston.

  5. I much prefer this rationale to the pseudoscientific nonsense of activists who claim eliminating smoking from movies cut tobacco use among teenagers in half.

    Sure it will. Just like those bathing suits that Victorian era women were forced to wear wore to the beach cut down on all that dirty, dirty sex.

    So, will this be referred to as the Glickmanian era?

  6. I am seriously thinking about starting smoking. Yeah, I know it is expensive and does cause lung cancer. But, everyone dies eventually and I am told it is a good way to loose weight.

    Well, cutting off your legs would be a good way to lose weight as well. But I wouldn’t advise it.

  7. And whatever you think of the MPAA ratings’ usefulness, consistency, or fairness, considering smoking is not inherently more problematic than considering drinking, illegal drug use, sex, violence, or profanity. Ostensibly, the MPAA is responding to the diverse values and concerns of parents who are trying to decide whether a particular movie is appropriate for their kids.

    I just got around to renting “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” last weekend. I am sold on the idea that the MPAAs first priority is to serve the major studios.

    There is increasing demand (or at least the appearance of demand), so the industry responds to it. But this is just another tool to game the system with. Not only does it lack objective standards, the MPAA insists that they must be arbitrary and capricious to be effective.

    Fortunately it is getting easier to produce and view films that aren’t passed through the establishment filter.

  8. I am sold on the idea that the MPAAs first priority is to serve the major studios.

    Of course, and like any business their main interest of the studios is meeting the needs of their customers. And their customers like having a ratings system so they’ll have a general idea of what kind of content they can expect to see in a given film.

  9. I am seriously thinking about starting smoking. Yeah, I know it is expensive and does cause lung cancer. But, everyone dies eventually and I am told it is a good way to loose weight.

    I remember reading some screaming scare article about rising obesity rates among the elderly, and I suggested in all seriousness that if you’re over 50 and fat to the point where your health is in danger, you should definitely consider smoking, because at that point you’re not likely to live long enough to get lung cancer anyway, and you’re already at the point where your fat would likely kill you before the smoke does.

    I used to work with a woman so fat she couldn’t walk without crutches. And she was around 55 or so (she retired a year later). A fondness for smoking would be the best thing in the world for her at this point.

  10. Jennifer,

    There is some real truth to that. I know people in the Army who smoke like fish, yet can run 14 minutes two miles and do 75 pushups without stopping. Smoking doesn’t seem to have affected their lung capcity too much.

    One thing is for sure, being morbidly obese will kill you quicker than smoking and certainly reduce your quality of life a lot more. The media or doctors never talk about the weight loss benefits of smoking. I have never seen a study on it. But I do know one thing; if you look at people who have to stay thin as a matter of their profession, ballet dancers, models, actors and the like, they all smoke.

  11. Of course, and like any business their main interest of the studios is meeting the needs of their customers. And their customers like having a ratings system so they’ll have a general idea of what kind of content they can expect to see in a given film.

    So what’s the harm in ridiculing a system that fails to do that by conflating a scene of someone smoking a cigarette with a scenes of someone getting brutally murdered in the same rating?

  12. I know people in the Army who smoke like fish

  13. I remember reading some screaming scare article about rising obesity rates among the elderly, and I suggested in all seriousness that if you’re over 50 and fat to the point where your health is in danger, you should definitely consider smoking, because at that point you’re not likely to live long enough to get lung cancer anyway, and you’re already at the point where your fat would likely kill you before the smoke does.

    The reason nobody who knows what they’re talking about makes this kind of suggestion is because smoking is unhealthy for plenty of reasons in addition to the threat of lung cancer.

    Smoking is a vice – something that delivers short-term pleasure in exchange for longer-term misery. You’re not doing anybody any favors by recommending taking up an unhealthful habit.

  14. So what’s the harm in ridiculing a system that fails to do that by conflating a scene of someone smoking a cigarette with a scenes of someone getting brutally murdered in the same rating?

    The only harm is that you guys spend so much time congratulating yourselves on being smarter than everybody else that you pretty much miss out on the benefits of considering others’ points of view.

  15. “I know people in the Army who smoke like fish”

    I guess you drink like a fish and smoke like a chiminey? Sorry for the mixed metaphores.

  16. Dan T,

    If you think that someone is better off not smoking and being really obese than smoking and being thin, you are nuts. The problem is whether the smoking would really cause them to loose weight or just take up another unhealthy habbit so that they are fat and also smoke.

  17. Dan T,

    If you think that someone is better off not smoking and being really obese than smoking and being thin, you are nuts.

    Well, I’ve never heard of a doctor that recommends taking up smoking to his overweight patients so they must all be nuts as well.

  18. John: How do you know they couldn’t do 150 pushups with better lungs?

    And guys, it’s “Lose” not “Loose.” When you lose your temper, you let loose and beat on someone. It’s not that hard.

  19. The only harm is that you guys spend so much time congratulating yourselves on being smarter than everybody else that you pretty much miss out on the benefits of considering others’ points of view.

    Nobody has refuted your statements? Don’t people have to consider your point of view in order to make a counterpoint? Just because people don’t AGREE with you doesn’t mean that they don’t consider others’ points of view. That’s just arrogant.

  20. Two movies with a LOT of smoking:
    1) Fritz Lang’s “M”. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pipes with cigars stuffed in them, smoking lamps, clouds of smoke. Very good movie.
    2) “Dive Bomber” about flight surgeons in WWII who light up cigarettes in almost every scene. Not nearly as good a movie as “M”.

  21. “Of course, and like any business their main interest of the studios is meeting the needs of their customers. And their customers like having a ratings system so they’ll have a general idea of what kind of content they can expect to see in a given film.”

    Yeah, I think the ratings system should be broadened to include a lot of other things as well. I’d give an automatic R to the appearance of : grown women with cute stuffed animals in their cars, officious liberals or conservatives, music to loudly announce what emotion the audience should be feeling, any storyline remotely predictable, people jumping out of fast moving cars then ablely walking around in the next scene, breasts that aren’t perky, men over 50 with fit 20 year old girl friends, high-fivin’ white guys, the announcement: “A Michael Bay Film”, and Paris Hilton. And that’s just for starters! Some things we really do need to protect our children from seeing.

  22. John: How do you know they couldn’t do 150 pushups with better lungs?

    I don’t and maybe they could, but they seem to be in awfully good shape and I can’t beleive there is that much more to be gained at the margins.

  23. I can’t WAIT to see the first smoking-related ‘R’ on HBO… “The following movie is rated ‘R’. It contains strong language, graphic violence, and glamorized smoking.” Oy.

  24. In some countries, the movie censor boards actually put a mosaic over the hand of someone smoking. If only they would agree with some of my personal distastes – put a mosaic over precocious wise-cracking children, raunchy seniors, or Adam Sandler.

  25. The whole state of Florida is taking up smoking today. Though we’re smoking palmettos and pine trees. Hmmm, refreshing!

  26. Save Social Security and lose weight at the same time, old people. Smoke more.

    I much prefer this rationale to the pseudoscientific nonsense of activists who claim eliminating smoking from movies cut tobacco use among teenagers in half.

    Hey, that is true, because when I was a teenager, my first thought when watching movies was to ask “What would Mel Gibson do?”

    Unfortunately, in addition to taking up smoking, Mel also made me paint my face blue and kill British people with a broad sword.

  27. So the next step will be a market for some enterprising companies to digitally bawdlerize old movies.

    Winston Smith moves from his old job at the Ministry of Truth into the lucrative private sector. Comrade Ogilivy does not smoke. Comrade Ogilivy has NEVER smoked. Kids, be like Comrade Ogilvy!

  28. Smoking is a vice – something that delivers short-term pleasure in exchange for longer-term misery.

    No, it’s a vice – something that delivers short-term pleasure in exchange for a long-term risk of misery. Only half of people who smoke two packs a day die from smoking-related causes. Those who smoke less, or who smoke pipes or cigars without inhaling, incur an even lesser risk of long-term misery. It’s all about what tradeoffs people are willing to make.

  29. No, it’s a vice – something that delivers short-term pleasure in exchange for a long-term risk of misery. Only half of people who smoke two packs a day die from smoking-related causes. Those who smoke less, or who smoke pipes or cigars without inhaling, incur an even lesser risk of long-term misery. It’s all about what tradeoffs people are willing to make.

    Even if you die of something other than smoking-realted causes, there is really no doubt that habitual smoking makes people less healthy, which generally means they’re less happy as well.

    And as with any addiction, there is no rational “trade-off”. The whole point of smoking for the addict is the satisfy the craving caused by smoking.

  30. Dan T.: You have failed to ask yourself what creates the craving in the first place. Is it some colorless, odorless effectless substance that we have to have at regular intervals, or do smokes give us a buzz that gives us short term pleasure?

  31. Even if you die of something other than smoking-realted causes, there is really no doubt that habitual smoking makes people less healthy, which generally means they’re less happy as well.

    Maybe if you’re a withered old prune, or the Church Lady, health is the only thing that matters to you. Personally, I’m willing to trade off the long-term, low risk of problems for pleasure. I like to eat butter, and drink Coke, and smoke a pipe, and drink Scotch. Other people might skydive, or mosh, or do any number of other things that involve a risk of harm. As rational adults, we can make these trade offs using what we call “intelligence.”

    And as with any addiction, there is no rational “trade-off”. The whole point of smoking for the addict is the satisfy the craving caused by smoking.

    And obviously anyone who smokes is addicted, right? It’s the old saw: “All drug^H^H^H^Htobacco use is abuse.” I mean, given the known risks of tobacco, no one would continue to smoke unless they were addicted, so obviously if you use tobacco you’re addicted. And don’t bother denying it. That’s just what an addict would say.

    There are many, many reasons to smoke other than addiction. There’s the satisfaction of an oral fixation. There’s the enjoyment of the ritual of smoking, which is a factor for pipe smokers and those who roll their own cigarettes. There’s sociality. There’s habit, which is different from addiction (“I always smoke after sex!”) But in Dan T. World, none of those matter. They’re all screens for addiction, apparently.

  32. As an ex-smoker, I can tell you I miss the camaraderie of the the smoking community. Plus the after (dinner, sex, etc.) cigarette was satiating like nothing else. And I did eat less when I smoked.

    On the flip side, no question it’s a dirty habit. Ashtrays and butts, stench and grime, just lowers the standard of living.

  33. Nicotaine has also been shown to be an antidepressant – it affects seratonin levels if I recall correctly.

    (Somewhere in an old thread I posted the link to the study. I am too lazy to look it up now).

    A significant portion of smokers who smoke multiple cigarettes a day are thought to be unconsciously treating themselves for depression.

  34. Smoke fish and topple like a chimney. No, wait, tipple and sleep with the fishes.

  35. I started smoking when I was a kid, and gave it up before I was out of high school.

    I didn’t start because of movies, I started because of a friend. Now, when I look back at the shows and films that I used to watch, I just feel sorry for all of those actors who died from lung cancer.

    Use of tobacco is against my religion (as is the “recreational” use of any other drug), but I think it’s absurd to rate movies based on the level of personal pulmonary pollution. It’s as stupid as the warnings on cigarette packs. ADDICTS DON’T CARE.

    Regarding secondhand smoke, I figure it like this — yes, it is hazardous to others. Yes, I have the right not to have to share someone else’s dope. No, I don’t have the right to tell people that they can’t use dope, so long as they aren’t hurting innocents by doing so.

    Thus, it’s okay to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces. It’s not okay to ban smoking in “private clubs” (which my state just did), where the public is not allowed (bars in Utah are all “private clubs,” you get membership for the price of a drink).

    To be so pathological about it that our children must be protected from the SIGHT of someone smoking is nothing short of ridiculous.

  36. John wrote:

    if you look at people who have to stay thin as a matter of their profession, ballet dancers, models, actors and the like, they all smoke.

    ALL of them? Funny, none of my friends who are actors smoke. I dated a fashion model (who is still a good friend), and she doesn’t smoke. Several of my friends are dancers, most of my friends are on the slender side of average . . .but, strangely, not one of them smokes.

    You can tell. The stink can’t be hidden, no matter what smokers think. That’s why it’s so funny seeing someone driving down the street with the window down an inch and tip of their cigarette poking out. They REALLY BELIEVE that the little smoke they’re dumping overboard is doing to make a difference, when compared to the 3 quarts of smoke they blow against the windshield every other breath!

    In fact, the only people I know who smoke are overweight, out of shape, and one has to wear a nasal cannula in order to walk across the street.

  37. grylliade wrote:

    |
    And obviously anyone who smokes is addicted, right?

    There are many, many reasons to smoke other than addiction. There’s the satisfaction of an oral fixation. There’s the enjoyment of the ritual of smoking, which is a factor for pipe smokers and those who roll their own cigarettes. There’s sociality. There’s habit, which is different from addiction (“I always smoke after sex!”)

    Each of your “reasons to smoke” fails to prove your point. Each of them can be found in behavior which is not self-destructive. You want oral fixation? Try Wrigley’s. You want ritual? Try Episcopalianism. You can be sociable without tobacco (if you come to my home, that’s the only way), and if you always smoke after sex, you’re doing it too fast.

    Only a straight-ticket voter could be old enough to smoke in this country and not know that it’s a form of slow suicide. You start because someone encourages you, not because it’s a good idea.

    Yes, smokers are addicted.

    This is why the Dope War is so pathetic. The DEA ninja who busted down doors last night is belting a beer right now, Marlboro in hand, and bragging about how he’s keeping the country safe from dangerous drugs.

  38. J Golden Rockwell wrote:

    In fact, the only people I know who smoke are overweight, out of shape, and one has to wear a nasal cannula in order to walk across the street…Yes, smokers are addicted. This is why the Dope War is so pathetic. The DEA ninja who busted down doors last night is belting a beer right now, Marlboro in hand, and bragging about how he’s keeping the country safe from dangerous drugs.

    Well, such a lot of anti-smoking hatred from two posts. Let’s break it down, shall we?

    First of all, on your ‘The smokers I know are fat lards’ assertation, it’s simply your own knowledge, and doesn’t hold water. Your own philosophy is counteracted with John’s post about his Army friends. I have the same body of knowledge from my time in the Navy. A third of the ship smoked, and only a few of the old enlisted guys were out of shape.

    And, as far as the addiction goes, way to use your medical powers to determine someone else’s condition without even knowing them. I smoked cigars for 3 or 4 years for pleasure. And I would smoke the Swisher Sweets, at the rate of about a pack or two a day. My wife got tired of me smoking them, asked me to stop, and I did without even flinching. Many people are addicted. Not everyone is. It’s not a one size fits all cap.

    And, at the end, to basically compare smoking to heroin or meth–please tell me you really don’t believe that.

  39. Nick, you missed the point.

    The assertion was that “ballet dancers, models, actors and the like, they all smoke.” And they don’t.

    The implication was that smoking keeps you thin. It doesn’t.

    Another assertion was that smoking doesn’t have ill effects on health. Anything that you breath which isn’t oxygen has ill effects on health.

    I’ll put your Navy smokers up against my nonsmokers anytime, anywhere, as far as physical endurance. But let’s have some fun, shall we? Bring your smokers to Utah, and we’ll go run some mountains, starting at 5000 ft MSL. Not fair? Okay, how about the Ko’olau on Oahu? Right down there at sea level, then up from there. This one also isn’t fair, because I’ve already done it — with smoking and non-smoking Marines from Kanaohe, USAF guys from Hickam, and Fleeties from Barber Point. The results? The slowest of the non-smokers hit the top and were a large part of the way back down before coming within sight of the first of the smokers.

    When I smoked, it was whatever cigarettes I could bum, as well as a pipe and cigars. I think that it was the second type of smoking that made it possible for me to stop “without flinching.” But let’s be real — you and I were able to give it up, but not once did you light up because you thought that smoking was a good idea — you did it because you wanted the nicotine effect. Not all addiction is the slavering, twitchy kind, and not all addicts are unable to overcome it.

    And yes, I DO compare smoking to heroin or meth, in the same way I compare a go cart to a Formula racer. The only difference is in scale.

    Please also note that I am not against smoking. I am against you making ME smoke, but if you (as an adult) choose to smoke and not force innocents to breathe your residue, you are welcome to indulge yourself all day. I publicly opposed the law banning smoking in “private clubs” such as bars, because anyone who doesn’t want to smoke can stay out of the clubs (and there are clubs which chose to be smoke-free).

  40. Is one cigarette a day still an “addiction”? How about one a week? or is it then at the level of “habit”? Am I also “addicted” to biting my finger nails?

    The image that comes to mind when you think “smoking” is a pack (or more) per day smoker, but even occasional/social smokers get lumpped in as well. How is a one cigarette per week smoker any more “addicted” to cigarettes than a social drinker is “addicted” to alcohol?

    While understanding a previous commenter’s satire, how much more rediculous does this sound?

    given the known risks of alcohol, no one would continue to drink unless they were addicted, so obviously if you use alcohol you’re addicted. And don’t bother denying it. That’s just what an addict would say.

    There will never be a study determining how much less harmful 1/week is over the standard nicotine addiction.

    “Shopping Therapy” is also considered “treating yourself for depression”. I guess EVERYONE is suffering from depression, why doesn’t the government just issue everyone a regular perscription of Soma since a constant orgasmic bliss is the standard of health.

    Will the rating system be retroactive? Will “101 Dalmations” be rated R?

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