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March 10, 2004

Oswego County Teens Plan Smoke Free Movie Event

A recent study conducted by the University of California indicated that of 776 movies released since 1999, more than three quarters of them (79 percent) included smoking.

Children and youth have been exposed to more than 8.2 billion estimated smoking impressions when viewing youth rated (G, PG and PG-13) films from 1999 to today, according to the study, which was conducted by the University of California San Francisco-based Smoke Free Movies.

In Oswego County, teens that are interested in learning more about how the tobacco industry uses movies to market smoking activities can join Reality Check, a youth-led anti-tobacco industry movement developed by the New York State Department of Health Tobacco Control Program. Katie Ives coordinates the program through the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau.

"The issue of smoking in Hollywood films has raised serious debates and concerns among the public health community," said Ives. "Last year, 27 States Attorneys General, including Elliot Spitzer, wrote the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) expressing concern about the high level of smoking in movies. Hollywood, however, has remained silent and has made no public attempt to address the issue."

The study looked at smoking impressions in live action movies from the seven major studios and independents - Warner Brothers, Disney, Columbia, Fox, Paramount, Universal, MGM and their affiliates, and found a disturbing shift in smoking patterns in Hollywood movies from R-rated to youth-rated films.

Three companies (Time Warner, Disney and Sony) together released 54 percent of youth-rated movies with smoking. The same companies delivered 57 percent of smoking impressions to children (1 billion), and 55 percent of impressions to teens (3.6 billion).

"The Smoke Free Movies study confirms existing research indicating that there is a direct correlation between youth exposure to smoking in movies and teen smoking initiation," said Kathleen Fenlon, director of the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau. "Research by the Dartmouth Medical School Department of Pediatrics has shown that movies are responsible for 52 percent of teens that start smoking."

Fenlon said the research shows that teens whose favorite stars smoke on screen are three times more likely to start smoking than those who do not view smoking in movies.

"Reality Check is working to raise awareness about these statistics and increase pressure among Hollywood executives to create substantial change in their movie productions," said Fenlon.

Oswego County's Reality Check youth will gather with teens from Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties May 1 for a Red Carpet Film Festival at the state office building in Watertown. All teens in Oswego County are welcome to join.

For information, call Ives at the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau, weekdays at 349-3451 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3451, or e-mail KIves@oswegocounty.com For details on the Smoke Free Movies study, visit www.smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu.

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