Film Subsidies for Lung Cancer

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Film production subsidies are already among the most controversial tax breaks in America today. But did you know that many states spend more money subsidizing films that promote smoking to teenagers than they spend on smoking prevention and cessation programs?

The following text is brought to you as a public service from Smoke Free Movies, based on ads in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and State Legislatures. See the ad here and learn more about the issue here.

– Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First

For decades, tobacco companies paid Hollywood to push smoking in movies.

Why are state taxpayers doing it now?

In March 2012, based on documentary evidence, the US Surgeon General reported that, for decades, US tobacco companies gave Hollywood valuable incentives to promote smoking in movies.

Today, so do taxpayers.

Through state film production incentives, states hand hundreds of millions of dollars to producers of movies with smoking.

Research indicates that exposure to on-screen smoking accounts for a million current teen smokers in the U.S. Indiscriminate film subsidies undermine states’ own efforts to keep kids from starting to smoke and avert billions in health costs.

No state can afford this deadly, wasteful policy conflict. Fortunately, the fix is straightforward.

As the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last year, states can simply make future media productions with tobacco imagery ineligible for public subsidy.

There’s no First Amendment issue. After all, state subsidy programs already filter out film projects for a range of other content.

Whether or not you think film subsidies make sense as economic development policy, collateral damage to kids’ health makes them unsupportable.

It’s time to mend state film incentives or end them. Learn more at bit.ly/fixsubsidy.

Sources: US Surgeon General. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General (2012), Chapter 5: The tobacco industry’s influences on the use of tobacco among youth. http://1.usa.gov/youthsmoking

US CDC. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Smoking in top-grossing movies — United States, 2010. July 15, 2011. http://1.usa.gov/mmwr_2011

Smoke Free Movies – smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu

Smoking in movies kills in real life. Smoke Free Movie policies — the R-rating, certification of no payoffs, anti-tobacco spots, and an end to brand display — are endorsed by the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, Legacy, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, American Public Health Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Los Angeles County Dept. of Health Services, New York State Department of Health, New York State PTA, and many others. Visit SFM online or contact: Smoke Free Movies, UCSF School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390.

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