Youth are 'TIFFed' smoking in movies is not being addressed as serious public health issue

TORONTO, Sept. 12, 2011 /CNW/ - During the Toronto International Film Festival, people from around the world come together to celebrate some of the best in film.  What many may not be aware of is that many of these films will feature smoking and be granted a youth rating (G, PG, 14A) in Ontario.  Evidence indicates that the more youth see smoking in movies the more likely they are to start, making this issue a serious public health concern.

"Youth see actors and actresses as role-models and when they see smoking in films; it influences them to do the same," said Hassan Mahmood a Youth Health Action member. "Smoking in movies is a form of product placement and media are powerful influencers to youth."

The issue of youth exposure to smoking in youth-rated films is more prevalent in Canada than in the United States, as film review boards throughout Canada grant movies a youth rating more often. According to movie ratings comparisons done by the Ontario Coalition for Smoke Free Movies for the period between June 2010 - May 2011 for top-grossing movies, domestic (Canada and U.S.) release, 88 percent (49/56) of movies released with tobacco content were youth-rated by the Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB) (G/PG/14A).  On the other hand, 57 percent (32/56) were youth-rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (G/PG/PG-13). 81 percent (394 million/489 million) of all tobacco impressions generated in theatre were delivered in movies youth-rated by the OFRB. These results show that movies with tobacco are more often rated for youth in Ontario than in the U.S under the OFRB's current rating system.

"We need to acknowledge the inconsistency of ratings of films featuring smoking or tobacco use in Ontario," said Seemi Qaiser another member of the Youth Health Action Network "Smoking in films creates an illusion that tobacco use is glamorous, normal and more common than it actually is. Rarely are the consequences of tobacco use ever shown."

According to a recent Ipsos Reid survey released by the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies, nearly three out of four (73 per cent) Ontarians aged 18 years of age or older said they would support a policy initiative to get smoking out of youth-rated movies.

Tobacco use continues to be a leading cause of disease and death in Ontario, accounting for 13,000 deaths in the province each year.  Today there are more than 67,000 smokers in Ontario between the age of 15 and 19 and changing the movie rating system is one way to help protect youth against smoking initiation.

The Youth Health Action Network's call for a rating change is supported by public health organizations locally, provincially, nationally and, internationally, including but not limited to the Toronto Public Health, Ontario Coalition for Smoke Free Movies, Canadian Cancer Society, US Centre for Disease control (US CDC), and World Health Organization   For more information visit www.smokefreemovies.ca.

About Youth Health Action Network
Youth Health Action Network is a network comprised of youth 16 to 24 years of age who actively plan, coordinate and implement community based activities that engage youth to take action on tobacco and other health related issues, including physical activity, substance and alcohol misuse, mental health issues and nutrition.

The Toronto Youth Health Action Network organized a flash mob on Saturday September 10, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. starting at the Yonge and Dundas Square and ending at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, to educate the film-going public about the promotion and advertising of tobacco products in movies rated for children and youth. 

Image with caption: "In a flash mob organized during the Toronto International Film Festival, youth show movie fans they are "TIFFed that smoking in movies is not being addressed as a serious public health issue (CNW Group/Youth Health Action Network)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20110912_C2322_PHOTO_EN_3060.jpg

SOURCE Youth Health Action Network

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Media Contact:  Janvere Lyder, 416 881-8379

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