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Health Dept.: No smoking in movies

May 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A mobile billboard is delivering a blockbuster health message for Hollywood. It calls for holding off on smoking scenes in movies so kids don't pick up the habit.Movies are a powerful influence on children and teens, so the Los Angeles County Public Health Department is targeting filmmakers with the giant anti-smoking billboard.

Health officials say movies have quite an impact on young people. So a billboard featuring non-smoking messages drove by all the major film studios. It is a way for the Health Department to draw attention to a health concern that they say isn't just in Southern California, but nationwide.

"When you see your idols up there smoking, you say, 'Gee whiz, that's something I want to emulate.' Just like the clothes you want to emulate, or the car that they're in," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles Public Health Department. "Unfortunately, between a third and a half of youth smoking is attributed to what they see in feature films."

Dr. Fielding says he would like to see movies that have smoking scenes rated "R." The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the group that rates movies, says smoking is a factor in rating a film.

A spokesperson for the MPAA says that movies that depict smokers that are rated "G" or "PG-13" will have anti-smoking public service announcements that run before the movie.

"I wouldn't think movies have that much of an influence," said Adam Floridia, a moviegoer. "Because you see someone in a movie smoking in a movie, I couldn't imagine that would make you want to do it. But I don't think cutting it out is a bad idea either. It's one more thing that might help."

"I think it's like the specific stars in the movie that might have a slight impact. But I think it's kids that are going to do what their friends are doing," said Erin Floridia, another moviegoer. "It's kind of hard to distinguish between the two, if it's the stars or if it's just their friends and their peers."

The MPAA says three out of the four films released this year where someone lights up have been rated "R."

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