August 27, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Health groups and AGs call on Universal to drop tobacco use and brand depiction from promo materials for movie "Rush"

Letter Asks Major Studio to Keep Smoking, Brands Out of Trailers
Washington, D.C. – Today, public health groups have joined state Attorneys General offices to call out the depiction of tobacco brand imagery and smoking in promotions for the movie Rush – coming out in September – citing its potential impact to tobacco use among youth. In a letter to Comcast Corporation (parent company of Universal Pictures), the groups ask the company to take proactive steps minimize young people’s exposure to brand imagery and actors smoking readily visible to youth in the film’s promotions.

Rush hits theaters next month andis based on a historic rivalry between two race car drivers competing for the 1976 Formula One racing championship.  However, promotions for the movie are available through different mediums, including movie trailers on television, YouTube, the official website and in theaters containing images of smoking as well as the Marlboro brand name.

“Despite being an R-rated movie, the smoking depictions in the promotions for Rush will have a tremendous reach among youth, undermining advertising restrictions on tobacco on television and in movies. Ultimately, these depictions can play a major role in glamorizing the number-one cause of preventable death in the U.S.: tobacco use,” said David Dobbins, Chief Operating Officers of Legacy, a national public health foundation dedicated to reducing tobacco use in the U.S. 

In the letter, the groups and Attorneys General ask Comcast to take responsible action to minimize youth exposure to smoking and brand appearances in its movie, including:

1.    Refraining from depicting smoking in the film’s trailers on the Rush web site and in any other promotional materials.

2.    Refraining from including Marlboro imagery in the film’s trailers on the Rush web site and in any other promotional materials.

3.    Including an anti-smoking PSA before the movie in all venues, formats and forms of distribution.

4.    Certifying that nobody associated with the film received anything of value or entered into any agreement in connection with the depiction of tobacco products or brands.

Legacy and public health groups have repeatedly called on studios, movie companies and the Motion Picture Association of America to ensure that tobacco imagery in films does not contribute to youth smoking initiation. Research shows that more than 80 percent of current adult smokers start smoking in their teens, and tobacco images seen on screen are one of the largest independent risk factors for starting to smoke. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report and World Health Organization have both confirmed movies’ impact on youth smoking.

In addition, Attorneys General have monitored tobacco brand displays in movies since the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between tobacco companies and the states, which banned paid tobacco brand placement in movies. (The MSA also limited tobacco sponsorship and branding of public events, such as motorsports.)

While individual media companies – including Universal – have responded to these efforts and taken positive steps to address the issue, depictions of tobacco use continue to reach youth audiences via movies, delivering billions of smoking impressions each year that contribute to the youth tobacco epidemic.

“Public health groups, the Attorneys General and the CDC continue to monitor smoking in movies to ensure that the progress that has been made to reduce its impact is not reversed. We hope that the industry will respond to our requests and do the responsible thing to save young lives from needless death and disease that is associated with tobacco use,” said Dobbins.

The letter’s signatories include Legacy along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Smoke Free Movies project of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, and the offices of the Attorneys General of Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa and Vermont. 

This press release is available at

The letter is available here.

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