MPAA Adds Smoking as Factor in Rating Films

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The Motion Picture Association of America has announced that, along with swearing, sex and violence, smoking on screen will help determine what audience-rating a film receives. The MPAA says it will consider how much a movie glorifies tobacco use, and who's doing the puffing. The movie board says they will weigh historic context, as well.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

French moviemakers sure know how to make smoking seem elegant and sexy on screen. American movies used to be clouded with cigarette smoke too, but according to the Motion Picture Association of America, people aren't smoking in the movies nearly as much as they used to. Nonetheless, the MPAA wants to protect our eyes from the smoke even more.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Films already run the risk of the R-rating if they show young actors smoking. The MPAA announced yesterday that smoking by adults on screen will be carefully scrutinized too.

NORRIS: Anti-smoking advocates see the new ratings plan as a way to discourage teen smoking but why stop there.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: After all, society is threatened by other perilous activities, Hollywood might want to expand the ratings code.

NORRIS: Give an AA-rating to movies that feature excessive drinking like "Leaving Las Vegas," or "Arthur."

SIEGEL: Or hand an XXL-rating to films where eating is done with abandon as in "Tom Jones."

NORRIS: Give an EMS- or ER-rating to movies like "E.T." and see all those kids riding around on bikes without helmets.

SIEGEL: Clearly an SPF 30-rating is in order for "Beach Blanket Bingo" for the unprotected skin of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

NORRIS: Or the dangerous absence of seatbelts on the Joad vehicle in "Grapes of Wrath" might warrant a DOA-rating.

SIEGEL: And let's you recall that there was once was a time when it wasn't just actors lighting up on the screen, the audience used to light up in the theater.

NORRIS: And when the rules toughened up, audiences had to break the habit. Some art houses showed this announcement featuring director John Waters sucking on a cigarette to remind the audiences not to light up.

(Soundbite of film clip)

Mr. JOHN WATERS (Film Director): Hello, I'm John Waters. And I'm supposed to announce there's no smoking in this theater, which I think is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard out of life. How can anyone sit through a length of a film - especially a European film - and not have a cigarette. Smoke anyway, it gives ushers jobs and if people didn't smoke, there would be no employment for the youth of today. So once again no smoking in this theater.

SIEGEL: John Waters is smoking so flamboyantly there that we suspected it could get an NC-17 rating under the new standards that the MPAA announced yesterday.

(Soundbite of music)

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