Groups Organize Smoking Awareness Event

Viewers in Jamestown and surrounding areas recently participated in a free movie night at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, sponsored by Reality Check and Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany.

The screening of the original animated “101 Dalmatians” movie, in honor of International Week of Action leading up to the Academy Awards, released in 1961, held the title of most incidents of smoking in an animated film until “Rango” was released in 2011.

“A lot has changed in 50 years, in the 1960s the adult smoking rate was over 40 percent, in 2017 the adult smoking rate in New York state is at an all-time low of 14.2 percent,” said Jonathan Chaffee, Reality Check coordinator of Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany. “So, even though smoking rates have changed to an all-time low, how smoking is portrayed in movies has stayed the same.”

The movie night was an effort to educate youth and parents about the prevalence of smoking in youth-rated movies and to push the film industry to rate movies that show smoking R. Reality Check member Brittney McElwain presented the issue of smoking in youth-rated movies starting with 101 Dalmatians in 1961 and ending with 86 percent of 2018 Oscar nominated films contained smoking, to show the attendees that smoking in movies has been an issue that has not been resolved.

According to a 2014 report from the Surgeon General, giving an R rating to future movies with smoking would be expected to reduce the number of teen smokers by nearly 1 in 5 (18 percent) and prevent 1 million deaths from smoking among teens and children alive today.

“Exposure to smoking on screen is harmful to our kids’ health,” Chaffee said. “Changing the rating to R will protect kids from tobacco promotion and reduce the risk of them ever starting to smoke.”

In addition to the movie, theatre goers were asked to clap throughout the movie every time a character was shown smoking to help them realize how much smoking is actually in the film. They also had an opportunity to take selfies and post them on social media outlets using the hashtag #HelpOscarQuit.