As a health blogger, I’m probably supposed to say that the movement to ban smoking in movies by giving these films an “R” rating is a good idea…but it’s not. At first glance, it may seem like the right thing to do–especially because we want to shield kids and teens from being influenced by such unhealthy behaviors. But once you take a closer look at this idea, giving a movie an “R” rating simply because someone smokes is pretty ridiculous.
Sure, smoking is banned from TV commercials and rarely do you see a character on a prime time show smoking, so why not insist that movies comply too, right? That’s what numerous Attorneys General have thought and tried (unsuccessfully) to do. But now, because of a new study in the journal Pediatrics, the debate is back to protect our kids.
Interestingly enough, the research found that outside influences such as parents or friends who smoked resulted in kids who were twice as likely to start smoking. That makes sense, right? If you see your parent or best friend lighting up, you are more inclined to think that you should too.
The researchers also claim that there was a link between smoking in movies and young viewers trying it themselves, which may or may not make sense depending on how you look at it. Sure, kids are naive and impressionable and look to Hollywood a bit too much as role models. But, is someone smoking a cigarette really enough to land that movie with an “R” rating? No. There are far worse things that happen in PG-13 and even G-rated movies at times.
Take violence, for example. Rarely can you sit down to enjoy a movie without guns and knives and fighting ensuing. I was on an international flight recently and noticed the “family-appropriate” movie they were showing had a lot of violence and shooting in it (I wish I could remember the name of the movie, but I simply declined the headsets that the flight attendant offered and hoped that all the kids around me would be too engrossed in the turbulence and free peanuts to notice). Even in cartoons, how many times have you seen fighting and violence? A lot. This has been proven to lead to agressive behavior in kids.
And while we’re at it, if they’re going to give movies an “R” rating because of smoking, then how about the same for other behaviors that are just as unhealthy as smoking? Like, eating fast food, drinking alcohol, getting drunk, being obese, etc. See? It’s ridiculous. Once you start giving films an “R” rating for one unhealthy behavior, where does it end?
Speaking from my own experience, I grew up seeing people around me smoke on TV and in the movies, but I have never smoked. I was lucky to have parents who didn’t smoke and who laid down the law about what would happen if I ever did. That, to me, is the biggest way to dissuade kids from smoking. Plus, once I became an athlete in high school, the last thing I wanted to do was pollute my body because I had learned to respect it.
So if we really want to discourage kids from smoking, let them see it. Let them see what really happens to someone when they smoke, how it affects their insides and outsides, and let them know that the adults in their lives do not approve. Then, and only then, will they not see it as glamorous as movies make it out to be.
Not that I wouldn’t love to have smoking banned altogether and see cigarette manufacturers stop producing these cancer-causing sticks, because I would. But giving a movie an “R” rating because of this is extreme and won’t work to curb out kids from taking up this habit. Those values start at home and ultimately make kids impervious to people around them who do choose to smoke.