Recently, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decided that any character smoking in a film will now be taken into consideration when a film is being rated.
According to an article from Gulf Weekly, the rule used to be that films containing scenes in which teenagers smoked illegally were included in the rating.
Since then, the rules have become stricter and any smoking throughout the movie— illegal or legal— will be considered in the rating. This policy is attributed to the notion that when teenagers see smoking in movies, it often sends them mixed messages of what is and is not socially acceptable.
“If teenagers see other people [smoking], they might think that it’s normal and that if other people are doing it, they might as well be doing it too,” said Hannah Lewis ’14.
Smoking is illegal for people under the age of 18, and the side effects can be severe. For example, the risk of cancer or lung disease is increased, which is why smoking is now being taken into consideration in movies.
According to some students, characters that teenagers relate to, such as the well-known Harry Potter, influence them very much.
“If Harry Potter smoked, [students] would be trying to smoke anything they could,” said Will Horne ’13. Horne believes that teens are specifically influenced by movies when they see characters smoking. He believes that many students are aware of the side affects of smoking cigarettes, but if they see that doing so is fun in films, they may become more likely to try them in life.
Smoking has been involved in many films in the past. In older movies, smoking was very common and not thought to be controversial. But now that people are aware of the consequences of smoking, the ideas have changed and it is questionable which audiences should be exposed to smoking.
Smoking can be used to portray different characters’ personalities in films. It is commonly thought of as destructive and less classy now, but in older movies, the characters that smoked were the good guys. Smoking has changed over time and now takes on a new meaning.
“I’m sure many people, parents, and kids would lose a lot of respect for [Harry Potter] if he was being influential in the wrong way,” Lewis said.
According to an article by the Center on Media and Child Healthcare, “Young people are especially influenced by smoking in movies because the teen years are often a period of searching for identity and forming a self-concept… Research has found that the smoking behavior of a teen’s favorite movie star can influence whether someone tries smoking.”
Based on these conclusions, some students believe that the new movie rating system is right.
“I think the new rating system is worth putting into effect along the lines of younger audiences, when parents have more control over what their kids are exposed to,” Lewis said.
According to Gulf Weekly, smoking is present in many of the top movies shown in theatres. These new rating laws will show audiences just how prevalent smoking is in the films of today.