March 10, 2011

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

New PG rated cartoon Rango sets a record for smoking

The youth-rated (PG) film Rango is the smokiest in years, a fact that is attracting a lot of attention.

Here is a chronology of recent events:

• January 19, 2011 | the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced it had rated a forthcoming Paramount animated feature film, Rango, "PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking." 

• Wednesday, February 23 | Having confirmed some of the tobacco imagery in the movie with more than one source, Smoke Free Movies ran this ad in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

• Friday, March 4 | Rango opened on 3,900 screens and grossed $38,079,323 through the weekend.

Rango has the most tobacco incidents of any animated film since 101 Dalmatians (1996). Rango delivered nearly 300 million tobacco impressions to theater audiences across the US and Canada in its first three days.

• Monday, March 7 | The American Academy of PediatricsCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Legacy released a joint statement warning that Rango posed a health risk for children. They pressed the major studios that control the Motion Picture Association of America to adopt the R-rating for future movies with smoking.

R-rating smoking need not result in more R-rated films. The practical effect of the R-rating would be to create market incentives for studios to voluntarily keep the movies that kids see most smokefree. 

The simple standard, with only two categorical exceptions, will also level the industry's playing filed on smoking and give all film industry players a recognized guideline. Calibration of content for ratings is routine because ratings act as a marketing tool; this is illustrated by Weinstein's self-initiated edit of The King's Speech, post Oscar®, to void its R-rating and gain a PG-13.

• March 8-March 10 | The health groups' statement was covered by The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, provoked an editorial cartoon in Milwaukee and TV and radio stories in the US and Canada, and is still echoing around the web.

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