Smoke Free Media Guide

Reality Check, 2020

Television, movies, the Internet and other forms of media, offer the tobacco industry direct and sometimes unregulated access into teens’ daily lives. That’s why we’ve written this Smoke Free Media Guide for Reality Check (RC) coordinators, where you’ll find information on how you can educate your community about tobacco use on screen. Because the media is in constant flux, thanks to ever-changing norms and technology, this guide should be viewed as a place to begin work, not as a map to the final destination. The Role of Reality Check in Smoke Free Media Reality Check coordinators will empower and mobilize youth to communicate with others about the problem of youth smoking, which is caused, in part, by tobacco depictions in the media. Through education, RC coordinators and youth mobilize community members, parents and other influential adults to help approach decision makers in the movie and Internet businesses to advocate for policy changes that protect our children – our nation’s most valuable asset.

Youth aged 11–14 have higher levels of media consumption than older youth—as children transition into adolescence, their media use explodes. Parents are often unaware of the amount, type and content of the media that their children consume. Media is one of the quickest and easiest ways to access youth. Today, youth can access media much more quickly due to advanced technology on mobile phones and computers. Pulling up a video, website or movie is now as simple as the touch of a screen. This type of media consumption is much more difficult for parents to monitor on a regular basis. What does Reality Check want to accomplish with this initiative? Reality Check’s current objectives are: 1) The implementation of an MPAA policy that requires an automatic R-rating for all movies featuring tobacco use on screen. 2) The implementation of a strong policy at YouTube that requires that all videos featuring tobacco use be age restricted content, requiring users to be logged in to their website as over the age of 18. By leveraging the consensus of the majority of major film studios, we hope to influence the Motion Picture Association towards adopting the R-rating policy for ALL films that contain smoking. If the majority of the MPAA’s member companies continue to endorse and codify the ideals of the smoke free movies initiative, we hope the MPAA will finally take a stand to protect youth from tobacco use on screen.

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