Some of our favorite movies and TV shows are teaching our young people how to smoke.

Together, we can protect them.

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According to research at the University of California San Francisco, 6 million American children currently under the age of 18 will be recruited as smokers through exposure to on-screen tobacco use. Of those, two million will eventually die due to tobacco-related diseases. In New Mexico, 46,000 of our youth under the age of 18 will become smokers because of the influence of smoking in films, with 15,000 of them dying from tobacco-related diseases.

  • Research has shown that exposure to on-screen smoking accounts for 37 percent of US smokers under the age of 18.
  • The US Surgeon General concluded that giving an R rating to future movies with smoking would reduce the youth smoking rate by 18 percent.


    Youth exposure to on-screen smoking

    According to reporting:

    • 60% of the 15 most popular shows among 15- to 24-year-olds contained depictions of tobacco in 2021, showing no improvement from 2020 and effectively exposing 25 million young people to tobacco imagery. 

    • Previous top offender Netflix demonstrated a notable decline in tobacco depictions, although youth-rated and frequently binge-watched “Stranger Things” continues to include tobacco imagery despite the network’s 2019 pledge to eliminate tobacco depictions in youth-rated shows.

    • 47% of top movies released in 2021 depicted tobacco imagery, according to a separate analysis by NORC at the University of Chicago. Movies with tobacco imagery included the PG-rated “The Girl Who Believed in Miracles” and 17 PG-13-rated or under movies, exposing an estimated 25 million youth and young adults ages 15-24 to tobacco imagery in top box office movies available on streaming.

    • Analysis of the top 2021 Billboard songs revealed that 12.8% of songs had 290 tobacco depictions in their music videos and were viewed over 2 billion times, down dramatically from 23% in 2020.

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    Do NM tax dollars go to funding movies that feature smoking?

    Yes. The United States leads in public funding for movies that feature tobacco-related imagery, with $2.37 billion dollars in subsidies having gone to films that featured smoking from 2010-2020. New Mexico gave $145 million in subsidies to smoking films in that time period. That represents nearly half of the total subsidies given for all New Mexico films in those years.

    What can NM filmmakers do?

    The Motion Picture Association (MPA) provides a “smoking label” along with the regular rating for some movies that contain smoking. Still, 87 percent of youth-rated, top-grossing movies with smoking do not carry an MPA “smoking label.” Five major movie companies that belong to the MPA have taken the lead on accountability by publishing individual policies addressing tobacco depictions in their movies.

    • Disney (2004)
    • AT&T’s Warner Bros. (2005)
    • Comcast’s Universal (2007)
    • Sony (2012)
    • Viacom’s Paramount (2013)
    • Netflix (2019) *banned smoking from its programming rated TV-14 and below
    woman directing shoot in front of green screen

    It takes more than a label on the corner of a screen to protect our children’s health. We are asking the film industry to lead the charge by:

    • Making a commitment to keeping future programming with a substantial youth viewership smoke free.
    • Prohibiting the display of any tobacco brand or mention of tobacco in future programming for ratings of G, PG, PG-13 and TV-14

    Film studios, producers, directors, writers, editors and actors can all make a difference by learning about the issue, using their voices to ask for policy changes in the industry and being advocates for smoke-free film.

    How taxes pay for smoking in movies, by state

    Smoke-Free Movies RESEARCH

    CDC’s Smoking in the Movies
    theater with do not smoke symbol

    What can Parents do?

    There are a number of things parents can do too. Start talking with your child early about tobacco use and set a good example by having a smoke-free home. When you see smoking in films, take this opportunity to talk to your children about the harms of tobacco use.

    Research tobacco use prevention. Find fast facts and fact sheets here:

    What can New Mexico do?

    New Mexico is proud to host a variety of film projects in our beautiful state. But as we welcome filmmakers, we must also prioritize the long-term health of our youth by promoting smoke-free movies (SFM) through policy initiatives, to specifically implement the SFM policy recommendation to stop providing state subsidies for movies with tobacco use.

    behind the scenes of a movie shot
    man sitting down in yard and talking to cinema camera

    Interviews, Media, and Printable Sheets

    23 of the 38 Oscar Nominated movies

    Include tobacco depictions.

    Truth Initiative’s annual “While You Were Streaming” report has been released!