Canada-US young people unite for smokefree movies

On Saturday, 9 April 2016, the eve of the MTV Movie Awards, kids from Canada and the US joined forces to call for smokefree youth-rated movies (press release).

Jointly organized by the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies and Reality Check New York, 130 young people dressed in red and blue hit the streets around Toronto City Hall to hand out infographics on the dangers of on-screen smoking.

The recent Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) report Youth exposure to tobacco in movies in Ontario, Canada: 2004-14 found that the large majority (86 per cent) of movies with smoking released in Ontario were rated for children and teens.

OTRU estimates that at least 185,000 children and teens aged 0-17 living in Ontario today will be recruited to cigarette smoking by their exposure to smoking on screen. The report also projects that at least 59,000 of those smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related disease.

Applying an 18A rating to all Ontario movies with onscreen smoking (equivalent to an R-rating in the US) would avert an estimated 30,000 tobacco-related deaths in the province and save more than half a billion dollars ($568 million) in healthcare costs.

The Ontario and New York youth attended Youth Advocacy Training Institute (Ontario Lung Association) sessions on public communication. Online activities — mostly Twitter — delivered 390,000 impressions and reached 160,000 users. The messages were retweeted internationally, attracted TV and radio reporters to the City Hall event, and made the Toronto evening news.

The Toronto event also highlighted growing public support for the use of movie ratings to ensure that youth-rated movies are smokefree. A new Ipsos Reid poll reports that nearly eight in ten Ontarians (79 percent) support keeping tobacco out of movies rated 14A or below, up from 73 percent in 2011. Sixty-two percent support toughening the ratings of films with smoking to 18A, a jump from 52 per cent in 2011.

Selected media coverage: WBIB Madison County Courier Facebook


Credit: Middlesex-London Health Unit, Ontario