Public Health

Smoking On Screen Declines, But Half Of Top Films Still Feature Tobacco

Mind if movie stars smoke? Actually, quite a few people do.

Actor Michael Madsen smokes outside the British premiere of Kill Bill - Vol. 2 in London in 2004.

Actor Michael Madsen smokes outside the British premiere of Kill Bill - Vol. 2 in London in 2004. Adam Butler/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Adam Butler/AP

Foes of smoking say that when larger-than-life celebrities light up on the big screen, it raises the odds that young people will take up the bad health habit.

An advocacy group audited the cameo roles of tobacco in the top-grossing movies going back to 1991 and found the number of smoking scenes has fallen in recent years. But they're still pretty common.

After peaking in 2005, on-screen smoking in the top movies has declined by almost half to 1,935 recorded instances in 2009. All told, 51 percent of the top movies in 2009 didn't show tobacco use at all, the first time a majority, albeit a thin one, of big films have been tobacco-free.

For movies kids are most likely to see (rated G, PG and PG-13), 61 percent were tobacco-free last year.

The findings appear in the latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, where you can find lots more details on how the movie watchers cataloged smoking incidents.

You might recall that back in 1998, tobacco companies agreed to stop paying to have their cigarettes placed in movies and such. Since then, antismoking groups have been ratcheting up the pressure on movie makers to eliminate the depiction of smoking in their films.

The movie analysis was funded, in part, by the antismoking American Legacy Foundation and the California Tobacco Control Program.

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