Tobacco Information

Smoking in Movies


Lights, Camera, Action! What’s the Deal with Smoking in Movies?


The tobacco industry uses smoking in movies to target youth and young adults to use their products. Smoking in movies is usually portrayed as sexy and glamorous, consistent with other tobacco industry advertising. Smoking in movies is also seen as a normal behavior and rarely associated with negative consequences.1

Celebrities that smoke in movies show traits that we desire! Think sexy, cool, popular or rebellious. You never see the ‘nerd’ smoking!

Influence on Young Adult Smoking

  • Research shows that adolescents exposed to smoking in movies are more likely to experiment and start smoking2,3
  • Studies of young adults have found that the greater the exposure to smoking in movies, the more likely a young adult is to be a current smoker4
  • Young adults are more likely to smoke immediately (within 30 minutes) after viewing a movie clip with smoking characters5
  • Exposure to smoking cues in movies can have a negative impact on quitting (young adults may be less likely to quit & more likely to relapse)

Smoke-free Movies: Why It’s Important for Young Adults

The tobacco industry uses product placement in Hollywood as an advertising tool. Smoking in movies reaches millions of viewers worldwide – many who are youth or young adults. For the past few years, smoking in movies has been steadily increasing.

In 2002, the total amount of smoking in movies was greater in youth-rated (G/PG/PG-13) films than in adult rated (R) films!1

So what’s being done?

The World Health Organization has recommended three guidelines:

  1. Movie studios must state that they do not receive payments from the tobacco industry
  2. Movies must not display specific brands
  3. Movies must play an anti-smoking advertisement before a film that shows smoking6

The Ontario Film Review Board has recommended rating any movie with tobacco use R (18A).

Rating movies with smoking R will make producers think twice about including smoking in their film (lower ratings = bigger audience = more money!).

Suggested Citation:

Kirkwood, A., Horne, C. & Travis, H. (2010). LTPB backgrounder: Lights, Camera, Action! What’s the Deal with Smoking in Movies? St. Catharines, ON: Leave The Pack Behind.



1 Charlesworth, A. & Glantz, S. (2008). Smoking in the movies increases adolescent smoking: A review. Pediatrics, 116(6), 1516-1528.

2 Sargent, J. D., Beach, M. L., Dalton, M. A., Mott, L. A., Tickle, J., Ahrens, M. B. et al. (2001). Effect of seeing tobacco use in films on trying smoking among adolescents: Cross sectional study. BMJ, 323, 1-6.

3 Dalton, M. A., Sargent, J. D., Beach, M. L., Titus-Ernstoff, L., Gibson, J. J., Ahrens, M. B., et al. (2003). Effect of viewing smoking in movies on adolescent smoking initiation: A cohort study. Lancet, 26(362), 281-285.

4 Song, A. V., Ling, P. M., Neilands, T. B., & Glantz, S. A. (2007). Smoking in movies and increased smoking among young adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 33(5), 396-403.

5 Schmueli, D., Prochaska, J. J., & Glantz, S. A. (2010). Effect of smoking scenes in films on immediate smoking: A randomized controlled study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 38(40), 351-358.

6 Glantz, S. A. (2010). Commentary on Hanewinkel et al. (2010): Anti-smoking advertisements vaccinate movie viewers against effects of on-screen smoking. Addiction, 105, 1278-1279.

Tobacco Information
Scroll to top