May 11, 2004
Members will hear testimony regarding the use of tobacco in motion pictures, and whether such portrayals lead to smoking among children and adolescents. Senator Ensign will preside. Following is a tentative witness list (not necessarily in order of appearance):
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Mr. Steven Yerrid
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. My experience with Big Tobacco did not begin with Florida’s landmark litigation against the cigarette cartel. Instead, my commitment to reduce the pain and suffering inflicted upon millions began with my parents, Charlie and Missy Yerrid. Each of them had their lives shortened by an addiction to cigarettes and it became both a personal and professional commitment when I agreed to accept the invitation of the late Governor Lawton Chiles to join the team of eleven private trial lawyers asked by Florida to bring the cigarette makers to justice and set the stage for national reform. But today, I fear that the reforms we fought so hard to institute are falling by the wayside as the industry reasserts its power, reinvigorating its effort to recruit new smokers - our children - as the current tobacco-addicted generation is depleted through sickness and death. The issue before this Committee, the marketing of brand names through the movie industry, is only a symptom of a larger, more insidious intrusion into the momentous accomplishments of 1997. Florida’s history is but one frame of the broader national picture. In 1997, Florida took the lead in combating the tobacco industry by demanding that strict limitations be placed upon specific advertising targeted toward children. We sought the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on healthcare for the poor who have become sick and ill through cigarette addiction. In addition to the money, we demanded non-monetary provisions that prohibited the industry from placing billboards near schools, and banned transit advertising in the State. It was in Florida, that we retired the Marlboro Man and put Joe Camel in a permanent grave. One year later, the 46 state Master Settlement Agreement took our reforms one step further by preventing the appearance of brand-name tobacco products in movies, television or theatrical performances. But since that historic national agreement, the movie industry has now begun to allow tobacco brands to be placed in feature films that are clearly intended to be viewed by children and teens. Neither legal experience nor a sophisticated education are necessary to state the obvious: These very reasonable and easily enforceable restrictions set forth in the Master Agreement are being violated. What I can tell you from my experience is that the tobacco industry and its zeal to enlist replacement smokers can be overwhelmingly powerful. Each generation must be reminded of that history. This is an industry that manipulated the attorney-client privilege in an effort to keep documents from judicial disclosure. This is an industry that dispatched seven of its top executives to appear as witnesses before the United States House of Representatives to testify in now-infamous hearings that their products were not addictive - when, in fact, they knew otherwise. This is an industry that boasted about its scorched-earth litigation policy to keep cases buried in the courts until the litigants either ran out of money or too many times, died before ever getting a day in court. Florida was heralded as the model of success in the fight against Big Tobacco, not only via the historic settlement but in a triumphant prevention program that engaged thousands of youths in our State in the battle against tobacco - and lowered smoking rates significantly among their peers. Once again Florida leads the way, but in an appalling turnaround, we are the bellwether for the country’s growing addiction to tobacco money. The $13 billion the State was awarded in 1997 was meant to repay our citizens for years of sickness and to prevent future generations from the same fate. Today, legislators now raid that settlement money annually to fill budget gaps and vacate taxpayer funds by using tobacco settlement monies as appropriation replacements. This is occurring at the same time the tobacco industry has returned to target our children and fill the campaign coffers of our elected officials. Under the leadership of the late Governor and former Senator Lawton Chiles, the Tobacco Control Program, which encompasses initiatives like SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco), was funded at $80 million. Relentless cuts have since slashed funding to a mere $1 million - effectively putting the highly successful program on life support and providing only 1.28 percent of the funds recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sustain a successful prevention effort. These numbers are even more shocking when put into the context of Florida’s total revenue from tobacco: Last year the State pocketed nearly $1 billion in settlement money and cigarette taxes. In a stunning caveat to this year’s merely symbolic $1 million appropriation for youth smoking prevention, Florida lawmakers approved a proviso that prohibits any of that money from being used for advertising or marketing. Ironically, these are the very efforts that proved dramatically successful in reducing youth smoking throughout the state by 50 percent among middle school students and 35 percent among high schoolers, just in the first four years of the TRUTH campaign. More ominously, the tobacco industry has stepped up its campaign of propaganda, pouring $651 million into the State in 2001 in advertising and marketing, not to mention the brand name advertising that occurs in both the movies and the print media. Billions are being spent across the nation to advertise cigarette products. At the same time, the truth about nicotine addiction has been silenced; the massive amounts of money spent by the industry are being combated by a merely symbolic $1 million. Not only has my State suffered a loss of funding, but we are losing zealous crusaders against tobacco. When the smoke cleared after last year’s budget battle in Florida, more than 100 dedicated staff workers statewide had lost their jobs. Countless young people and devoted volunteers who fought for Florida’s landmark prevention program were betrayed. But a perhaps more egregious offense than snuffing out prevention programs is Florida’s own investment in the success of Big Tobacco. In 2001, Governor Jeb Bush reversed Governor Lawton Chiles’ 1996 decision to divest public dollars from tobacco stocks. I am proud to mention that Senator Bill Nelson, a personal friend, a wonderful leader and an outstanding Senator from the Sunshine State joined Governor Chiles and acting as Insurance Commissioner, cast the deciding vote to make that divestiture happen. Today, Florida’s public pension fund depends, in part, upon the financial rewards reaped by the industry. Under the current leadership, $480 million of Florida’s pension fund has been reinvested in Big Tobacco. As shareholders, it must be assumed we support those who profit from selling a product that, when used as directed, sickens and kills Americans. When criticism erupted, those making such a questionable “investment” spun it to be an economic decision, not a moral one. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. Supporting profiteers who succeed through our children’s failure is certainly a moral issue. We must do everything possible to help our next generation. Not just inside movie theatres and on the silver screen, but on the playgrounds and in the residential areas where we live. Temptation and addiction are real, not make-believe. The stakes could not be more critical. Smoking costs the State $10.4 billion per year in health care costs and lost productivity. Nearly half a million people nationwide die every year from smoking-related illnesses. The tobacco industry promised not to prey on our children. Whether it is billboards, sporting events, television and now once again the movies, that promise must be kept. Unfortunately, too many lawmakers have become effectively addicted to the money of this insidious industry. Instead of fulfilling their promise of leadership and their pledge to the youth of Florida, the governor and the legislature have sounded the death knell for tobacco prevention. Our youth programs, vital and enormously successful, deserve and must have full funding. Without such vigilance, without such effort -- it is a virtual certainty the addiction cycle will be restarted. As baby boomers we buried too many parents who died after years of smoking because they did not know better. There was no truth. There was simply a massive amount of propaganda, successful marketing and advertisement. The youth of our parents sacrificed many of their years of adult life because billboards, magazines, professional athletes, actors and, of course, the movies all portrayed smoking as the right thing to do. We cannot let this happen again. This is an industry that must continually seek new consumers to replace the 400,000 addicted Americans who die every year from smoking-related illnesses. Big Tobacco will go to any lengths to secure its future: Its armada of experts will testify that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertising are not designed to obtain new consumers or fund prohibited projects, but instead are used merely to maintain brand loyalty. The American people are smarter than that. Our distinguished elected leaders should be smarter than that as well. I am not advocating more regulation or more bureaucracy. Nor do I know the appropriate methodology to halt the present trend and apparent return to a cinematic course of conduct that potentially jeopardizes much of the good we have done. But I do know we should give our children a chance in making their own future. As a citizen, I am willing to offer my availability, my time and whatever input you may deem appropriate to thoroughly study this matter and make every effort to find acceptable solutions to all concerned. I am proud to be accompanied by another Floridian here today. Joe Scarfone is 19 years old and a graduate of J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey. He has dedicated much of his youth to protecting his generation from the manipulations of the tobacco industry. Until his graduation from high school he was an active member and served on the board and the executive committee of Students Working Against Tobacco (“SWAT”). He puts a real face on the young people across this country who are willing to devote their time and energy to saving lives, and deserve your protection in being allowed to fulfill this mission. Thank you very much for the time you have so graciously provided to express my views and for your kindness in inviting me to testify before this outstanding body.
Mr. LeVar Burton
Mr. Chairman and Committee members, my name is LeVar Burton and I thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss the issue of the depiction of smoking in movies—and its potential impact on youth. I come here today on behalf of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), of which I am a National Board member as well as Co-Chair of the Guild’s Task Force on Social Responsibility. Founded in 1936 by the most prominent directors of the period, today the Directors Guild represents over 12,800 directors and members of the directorial team who work in feature film, television, commercials, documentaries and news. The DGA’s mission is to protect the economic and creative rights of directors and the directorial team — working to advance our artistic freedom and ensure fair compensation for our work. Film is truly an indigenous American art form, and the work of filmmakers — in collaboration with other creative artists in our industry – has documented, reflected upon and portrayed the American experience for almost 100 years. With no disrespect to other great art forms, I think it is fair to say that motion pictures played a very unique role in popular culture during the 20th Century — and they continue to be enjoyed daily by billions of people around the world. Those of us who work in film feel lucky and privileged to earn our living contributing our talents to a craft we love. The films we directors create tell the story of people’s lives, be they in the present or the past, in our country or in a foreign culture. In telling our stories – and creating accurate depictions of life on a reel of film – filmmakers seek to capture not only who we are but also who we want to be. Directors may not always hit the mark with every film, but through the revelation of joy and pain, bravery and fear, greatness and weakness, happiness and sadness, we try to seek the truth in the story we are telling. The process that goes into making a film is understandably unknown to those outside our industry. During the making of a film, directors are actually running a multi-million dollar business—a business involving hundreds of people and a myriad of details and decisions that have to made each day to keep the production on schedule and on budget. Whether it is the crafting of a single scene or the visual creation of a character from the written page, the director is always working to create a dramatic narrative that shapes the story. They have to reflect on the realities of life and determine if, how, and in what way they might put them into their film. The director and his or her collaborators—the writer, the actor, the cinema-tographer, the art director, the film editor—make these decisions constantly …before the film begins shooting… during shooting… and in the post-production room where the film gets edited. Smoking is one of those facts of real life that directors face. Without denying all the indisputable evidence that shows what smoking does to your health, the reality is that people smoke in real life. Like most personal traits, smoking can be an important signal that reveals or underscores the emotional or mental state of a character. In other in-stances, portraying smoking on the screen may be unavoidable if we are to establish his-torical accuracy. For example, you can’t portray either President Roosevelt accurately without a cigar or cigarette, nor great geniuses like Albert Einstein. The decision to have a character smoke is one exercised by the individual director as they shape the story of their film. Having made these points about the filmmaking process, I want to state very strongly that both as individuals—who are parents like you – and as members of the DGA, directors are very aware of the impact films can have on the public consciousness. And they take seriously the responsibility they hold when making creative decisions. That is why, in June of 1999, the National Board of the Directors Guild of America took the unprecedented step of creating the Task Force on Social Responsibility. The Task Force was established to advise the DGA National Board on important social issues that involve directors and their work. Along with director Taylor Hackford, I serve as Co-Chairman of this Task Force. Some of the most prestigious film and television directors in the Guild are members—and this is not a “In Name Only Committee”. Since its creation we have held many meetings not only among ourselves, but with academics, medical associations, the studios, theatre owners and others from whom we can glean insights and knowledge that will be important to our members as filmmakers and citizens. Over the past year, one of the issues the Task Force has looked at very carefully is the depiction of smoking in films and television and its impact on young people. We have had many meetings and discussions that led to a series of recommendations that were presented to the DGA National Board of Directors, and unanimously adopted, on November 13, 2003. Accompanying this testimony, I will submit those formal recom-mendations for the record, but would like to briefly paraphrase them. First, the Guild is firm in its belief that allowing a character to smoke is a creative decision to be made by individual directors and that our members’ First Amendment rights to free expression must be upheld. The resolution goes on to state that: · Gratuitous on-screen smoking in films and television should be discouraged. · That directors should recognize the social responsibility they hold in making creative decisions, including how they depict characters who smoke. · The DGA would take on a leadership role in the industry by creating materials and an outreach campaign for our members that would encourage their awareness of their social responsibility in connection with the depiction of smoking in films. In keeping with the objectives of the resolution, in mid-December of last year members of the Social Responsibility Task Force, along with Jack Valenti and the Motion Picture Association of America, met with Senator Ensign and six state Attorneys General, led by Maryland Attorney General Joe Curran, to further open dialogue on this issue. At the meeting, Dr. Madeline Dalton of Dartmouth Medical School presented the findings from her study on the effects of viewing smoking in movies on adolescent smoking initiation. We presented our Task Force’s recommendations and engaged in a meaningful and frank discussion about the study and our recommendations. While we are independently reviewing the conclusions drawn from the correlations identified in the study, we hold firm in our belief that filmmakers should be aware of the issue of smoking on screen and teen smoking. Further, we believe that the DGA should take a leadership role in our industry –as we often do – by undertaking an internal education campaign to meet that goal. As a result, over the months since our meeting in Los Angeles, DGA has begun to develop, design and prepare to launch this educational campaign. We have formed a partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), one of our industry’s leading non-profit organizations devoted to industry education and involvement on a range of societal, and particularly health care, issues. Through this partnership, the DGA plans to reach out to our director members to raise awareness about the impact of smoking in film and television on youth, and to encourage the voluntary reduction of any glamorized portrayal of onscreen smoking. This campaign is different from other efforts to curb the portrayals of smoking in films because it is an entertainment industry-initiated campaign. At its core, the campaign respects and upholds the right to artistic freedom and expression. But it also recognizes and takes seriously our industry’s social responsibility when it comes to creating full awareness about depicting smoking in movies and television. The goals of the campaign—which will be launched shortly – are to use written materials, member meetings, and peer-to-peer outreach to educate and inform our director members. We are hopeful that our outreach campaign will serve as a template that will be used by others in our industry and result in new ways of thinking that will show up on the screen. We all know that tobacco products are a major public health concern in both the United States and around the globe. As I have said earlier, directors recognize the significant social responsibility they carry when making movies and television programs. That is why we have already put in place our own effort to address this public health concern, particularly with respect to teenagers. We know that such an effort will take the involvement of the public health community, parents, teachers and others who impact our youth’s lives every day. The Directors Guild of America welcomes the chance to add our own efforts to theirs. Thank you.
Dr. Madeline Dalton
Good afternoon. My name is Madeline Dalton. I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth Medical School. For the past 9 years, I’ve worked with a multi-disciplinary team of investigators studying the influence of behavioral and social risk factors for adolescent smoking. I’m honored to be here today and appreciate the opportunity to share with you the results of our most recent study, which looked at the influence of movies on adolescent smoking behavior. Adolescents engage in a number of high risk health behaviors, but smoking is of particular concern because it is the leading cause of preventable death in our country. Smoking kills over 400,000 people in the US each year, which is more than the number of deaths caused by alcohol, illicit drugs, motor vehicles, sexual activity and firearms combined.1 The period of greatest risk for smoking initiation is during childhood, particularly between 10 and 15 years of age. If we can prevent children from smoking until they reach their 18th birthday, then their chance of becoming an addicted smoker is very low. This is the primary reason why we study, and try to prevent, risk factors for smoking initiation during adolescence. Movies are potentially a very important social influence on adolescent smoking. Movies not only depict modern societal norms and styles, they help to define them. In popular contemporary movies, smoking is commonly associated with characteristics many adolescents find appealing, such as toughness, sexiness, and rebelliousness.2 Cigarette brand appearances and smoking portrayals in movies endorse smoking behavior by associating it with larger-than-life actors, many of whom are social icons for adolescents. Adolescents are vulnerable to these portrayals, as they look to movie stars to help form their own identity and self-image. In our study, we analyzed the smoking content of 600 top box-office hits released over the past decade. Eighty-five percent of these movies portrayed smoking. Movies were more likely to have smoking as the rating increased. For example, smoking was portrayed in approximately half of G-rated movies compared to 90% of R-rated movies. More than three quarters of PG and PG-13 movies, which are generally considered appropriate for adolescent audiences, featured smoking. Prior research has shown that adolescents are more likely to smoke if their favorite movie stars smoke on-screen.3,4 Experimental studies of adolescents suggest that viewing smoking in movies is associated with more positive attitudes toward smoking.5 Our cross-sectional survey of almost 5000 adolescents showed that the more smoking adolescents viewed in movies, the more likely they were to have tried smoking themselves.6 To validate these findings, we initiated a prospective follow-up study in 2000.7 The goal of the prospective study was to determine if viewing smoking in movies predicted smoking initiation among adolescent never smokers. The prospective study surveyed adolescents, 10-14 years of age, at 14 middle schools in Northern New England. We asked the students about their movie viewing, smoking behavior, and a number of other factors related to smoking, including peer and family smoking, school performance, child personality characteristics, parent education, parental monitoring, and parental disapproval of smoking. Through this survey, we identified 3547 adolescents who had never tried smoking. We re-contacted 73% (2603) of these adolescents by telephone one to two years after the initial survey to determine if they had initiated smoking. Overall, ten percent (259) of the students had initiated smoking. Adolescents who saw the most amount of smoking in movies were much more likely to initiate smoking themselves. Seventeen percent (107) of those who had the highest exposure to smoking in movies had initiated smoking, compared to only 3% (22) of those who had the lowest exposure. We recognize that other factors, such as peer and family smoking, child personality characteristics, and parenting characteristics, also influence an adolescent’s decision to smoke. We included these in our analysis as possible alternative explanations for smoking initiation. Even after taking all of these factors into account, we found that adolescents who viewed the most smoking in movies were still 2.7 (95% CI: 1.7, 4.3) times more likely to try smoking compared to those who viewed the least amount of smoking in movies. The influence of movies on adolescent smoking initiation was greatest among children whose parents did not smoke, showing a four-fold increase in risk of smoking initiation when children with high exposure to movie smoking were compared to those with low exposure. Overall, even after controlling for all of the other factors, we found that half (52.2%; 95% CI: 30.0, 67.3) the adolescents who initiated smoking in this study did so because of viewing smoking in movies. The results of this study confirm prior research by providing strong evidence that viewing smoking in movies promotes smoking initiation among adolescents. Children of non-smoking parents appear to be particularly susceptible to the influence of movie smoking, indicating that modeling non-smoking behavior in the home is not enough to prevent children from initiating smoking. Our findings indicate that eliminating or reducing adolescents’ exposure to smoking in movies could significantly reduce the number of adolescents who initiate smoking.
Dr. Stan Glantz
Click here for a PDF version of Mr. Glanz's remarks.
Mr Jack ValentiFormer Chairman and CEOMotion Picture Association of America
To put it plainly, I oppose smoking on the screen. But I am not a movie-maker. A movie is a dramatic narrative. It is visual story telling in its purest form. Its intent is to so entice an audience that they will cry or laugh or be held in suspense or whatever emotion the script attempts to rouse. That is the artistic task of the cinema-maker. If smoking by some actors is essential to the time and place of the story, and is indispensable to quickly identify the actor’s demeanor and character to advance the narrative, no one ought to intervene in a director’s design for telling his story the way he chooses to tell it. As a former combat pilot in World War II, I’m hard pressed to imagine a movie like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List without soldiers smoking cigarettes. In World War II, cigarettes were actually issued by the military in ration kits. Which probably is why we ought not judge actions in one age by the standards of another age, which is also why it’s difficult to restrain story-telling today when the movie is set in a different time. Omnipresent in this nation are a good many legal products and behavior that have, alas, a capability for inciting tragedy in the lives of too many of us. - Alcohol abuse. - Murder by guns - Unsafe driving - Smoking - Obesity, now emerging as the number one health problem in the U.S. How to deal with those dark facts of real life in the art of visual story-telling? How do creative artists confront conflicting themes of the human condition as they try to construct a dramatic narrative? The question is not conspiratorial, not at all. I am a passionate partisan of the First Amendment, as one who believes in those forty-five words that comprise the one clause in our Constitution which guarantees all the others. Therefore, I am awfully reluctant to offer counsel to creative filmmakers about how to shape their story, what to put in and what to leave out. I have on a good many occasions discussed the philosophic tracings of motion pictures and the responsibility of filmmakers with many directors, writers, producers, actors and studio executives. I must admit that I only offer my opinion, never a command. Senator Ensign, Attorney General Curran and four State Attorneys General representing a group of 25 participated in two such sessions I organized this past January in cooperation with the Directors Guild of America. We conducted two meetings. One was with the DGA. The other was with studio production executives as well as high-level officials from all of the creative guilds--Directors, Actors, Writers. We had constructive and open dialogue that resulted in the development of an on-going program to educate the creative community about the potential influence depictions of smoking have on impressionable young people. We also learned about the conclusions of the Dartmouth Medical School Study, linking smoking initiation among teens with viewing depictions of smoking on screen. While I continue to have questions about some elements of the Dartmouth study, I believe it was important for the filmmaking community to become familiar with the findings that were published. Filmmakers should be aware of any and all information that suggests that smoking in the movies may be linked to influencing young people to begin smoking. That’s why we are fully cooperating with the creative guilds to educate and sensitize their members and our executives about this issue. Ultimately, filmmakers must decide what story to tell and how to tell it, though others may be unsettled by what they see. My staff has surveyed, all of our member companies. I have personally talked with scores of producers, directors and actors. I have been unable to discover any evidence today of paid product placement of cigarette brands by the tobacco companies. It is my understanding that the master settlement agreement strictly prohibits such transactions. This is evidenced by a number of letters from the big tobacco companies, such as RJR and Phillip Morris, to the Chief Executive Officers of my member companies. This correspondence supports the proposal I received by 25 state Attorneys General for the motion picture industry to reduce or eliminate depictions of smoking scenes in movies. These letters also denied their permission for the use of their tobacco products or trademarks in films. The letters further urge the motion picture industry, and I quote, “ to voluntarily refrain from portraying or referring to cigarette brands or brand imagery in any movies.” I offer some additional information and perspective for this committee to ponder as it examines depictions of smoking in the movies and reviews the data and the testimony from others that has been presented today. * In late 2003, the American Legacy Foundation, which is funded by the nationwide tobacco settlement, issued national survey results, finding that 23 percent of high schoolers said they had smoked tobacco in the preceding month—a drop of 28 percent since the last time the survey was conducted, two years earlier.” * There is similar data from the Center for Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from November 2003, the last available review of Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students in the United States during the period 2000 to 2002. Current use of any tobacco product among, and I quote, “high school students declined significantly from 34.5% to 28.4%, and cigarette use decreased from 28.0% to 22.9%.” According to a recent report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in the United States has risen at an epidemic rate during the past 20 years. The Center also stated that obesity is close to overtaking smoking as the number one cause of death in the United States. I provide those sets of statistics simply to illustrate a confirmable fact: There are no absolutes when judging human behavior and attempting to ascertain the cause and effect. “Correlations,” as brought up in the Dartmouth Study, raise the possibility of a “causal” relationship, but provide no proof of one, according to the acceptable standards of social science research. It is necessary to recognize the infirmities of drawing absolutes from social science research, particularly when attempting to influence a change in what is believed to be the root cause of a particular human behavior. This country thrives on our ability to freely tell stories on film and on paper without the fear or government influence or intervention. Your predecessors wrote the First Amendment not to protect popular speech, but to protect unpopular speech. That is why I pledge to you that MPAA and its member companies will continue to work with members of Congress, the State Attorneys General, and the creative guilds to inform producers, directors and actors about the use of tobacco products in the motion pictures they make. ###
The Honorable J. Joseph Curran, Jr.Attorney GeneralState of Maryland
Click here for a PDF version of Mr. Curran's remarks.