WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Representative Joseph Pitts (R-PA), who both serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter to the Motion Picture Association of America encouraging the movie industry to adopt stronger measures to reduce youth exposure to images of smoking in movies. The letter proposes four strategies recommended by the U.S. based Smoke Free Movies Initiative and the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect children from the dangers of smoking in movies.

 The proposed steps include measures such as requiring strong anti-tobacco announcements before films with tobacco imagery and rating future motion pictures with tobacco imagery “R.”

The release of the letter, co-authored by Rep. Markey and Rep. Pitts, coincides with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) issuing a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) investigating trends in the prevalence of tobacco images in movies and youth exposure to onscreen smoking.

While progress has been made to reduce onscreen images of smoking in movies, too many films targeting youth continue to include depictions of smoking. Although approximately 20% of U.S. high school students smoke, 54% of PG-13 films in 2009 contained tobacco images,” said Rep. Markey. “Today’s CDC report reaffirms that youth are overexposed to images of smoking in movies and this exposure can significantly increase a child’s decision to start smoking. It’s time for the movie industry to accept its own version of a nicotine patch by embracing a policy that will help them kick the habit of including images of smoking in movies targeting youth. Such a commitment would be a powerful investment in the long term public health of our youth and our nation.”

Rep Pitts said: “The report today reiterates what we have known about smoking for many years now—depictions of smoking in movies influence kids. Another study from Dartmouth found that one-third to one-half of youth smoking initiation is explained by exposure to smoking in movies. I hope that the movie industry takes a good, hard look at the recommendations in the report and takes steps to reduce the number of young people who take up smoking each year. The health of children here in the U.S. and around the world could be improved by removing tobacco use from movies rated for broad audiences.

A copy of the letter can be found here: