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Movie industry hasn't stopped smoking, but it has cut back a lot

Top movies in 2010 depicited far fewer smoking scenes than in 2005, especially films for kids and teens, a new report finds. Movie companies with antismoking policies cut tobacco scenes the most.

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Moviegoers are much less likely to see scenes depicting smoking these days, but Hollywood could do more to keep tobacco images away from kids and teenagers, says a new report. One suggestion: Stamp an R rating on any smoke-filled movie.

The 88 top-grossing movies targeted at youths (rated G, PG, or PG-13) in 2010 contained 72 percent fewer scenes of smoking than did similar movies in 2005, according to the study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Movie companies that have adopted antitobacco policies saw the greatest declines, by far. Kids' movies made by companies that cracked down on cinematic smoking saw 96 percent less onscreen tobacco use in 2010 than in 2005, the study shows, while movies by companies without antismoking policies saw a 42 percent decline.

“The movie industry as a whole needs to follow studios that have designed policies to limit tobacco in youth-rated movies,” Ursula Bauer of the CDC said during a teleconference with reporters.

Among all 137 top-grossing movies of 2010 (of any rating), incidents of smoking declined 56 percent since 2005, says the CDC report, released Thursday. Between 1991 and 2011, 2005 was the peak for images of onscreen smoking.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, and 9 in 10 adult smokers began smoking when they were teenagers, noted Ms. Bauer. She also cited evidence that young people with the highest exposure to onscreen smoking are about twice as likely to try smoking as those with the least exposure.

Film companies with antismoking policies have “shown it’s possible to make high-quality, highly successful movies without filling them up with cigarettes,” says Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a lead author of the report.

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