Taxpayers Subsidize Smoking in "Avatar," Other Youth-Rated Movies

Smoke Free Movies, a project that aims to "reduce the U.S. film industry's usefulness to Big Tobacco's domestic and global marketing" has started running advertisements in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety about the movie Avatar. The ads state that,

For every $100 million it earns at the box office, Avatar ... will deliver an estimated forty million tobacco impressions to theater audiences. By the time it reaches Blu-Ray, VOD and broadband, Avatar's smoking scenes could be worth the equivalent of $50 million in broadcast cigarette ads. Of course, the United States outlawed cigarette commercials forty years ago. Did Big Tobacco pay for this? Taxpayers did. ... Avatar's tobacco imagery scored $30 million in public subsidies, according to the L.A. Times. The public is not only charged for 3D glasses to watch tobacco promotion, it pays for it again at tax time.

The information about taxpayers subsidizing smoking in big-screen movies comes from a November, 2009 report by the University of California San Francisco titled "Taxpayer Subsidies for US Films with Tobacco Imagery" that examined taxpayer subsidies for youth-rated films (G, PG and PG-13). The study revealed that 41 U.S. states compete for film projects by offering taxpayer-funded, public subsidies to motion picture producers, and that in 2008, states picked up about one quarter of total film production costs. The paper estimated that 62 percent of state film subsidies go to films that portray smoking. Studies show that there is more smoking in movies now than ever before, and that smoking in movies does, in fact, encourage kids to smoke.


I totally agree that watching tobacco use in a movie can influence tobacco usage outside of the theatre. I know because I am a mostly ex-smoker. Whenever I view smoking in a movie it certainly makes me crave a cigarette. Granted, I'm already addicted and I'm not a teenager. But even knowing what I know about tobacco's dangers and the stupidity of smoking, watching tobacco use in a movie makes it seem okay in some odd way.

No one should receive taxpayer subsidies for movies that glamorize tobacco use, especially those marketed to teenagers.

...and rediculous. The real waste of tax payers money is that which is spent on paying people to nitpick at artistic depictions of ideas in movies that help to tell the story and that makes absolutely no difference to someones desition to take up smoking. Where the heck are these peoples priorities anyway? You can show killing, stabbing, tourture, fraud, robbery and pretty much anything illegal in a movie and nobody, including me, gives a damb. But smoking, oh no, the terror. GET A LIFE and stop wasting tax payers money on trying to surpress ones creative vision.

As far as shameless tobacco endorsement goes, I still think Independence Day takes the cake. I lost track of how many times they pulled out a cigar in that movie and said "i used to think these things are bad for you, but they're great." that probably wasn't verbatim, but that was essentially what they were saying.