An 'R' Rating for Smoking?

By Gary Korb

Recently, an AP article out of Los Angeles was circulated with the headline, "That cigar could get movie an 'R' rating." In short, MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman wants his ratings board to take into account smoking scenes that not only show underage smoking, but "smoking by adults as well." Therefore, smoking would be among the MPAA's list of "vices" along with sex, violence and language.

As a movie fanatic and a former film student, my Libertarian bones shudder at the thought. Didn't we read not that long ago about the BBC editing out scenes of characters smoking in animated cartoons?

The article reported: "Some critics of Hollywood's depictions of tobacco in films have urged that movies that show smoking be assigned an R rating, which would restrict those younger than 17 from seeing them."

They're referring to people like Kori Titus, spokesperson for Breathe California, a group that opposes images of tobacco use in movies, and believes that such images may encourage young people to start smoking. Moreover, Ms. Titus, who was quoted as saying, "What [the MPAA is] proposing does not go far enough and is not going to make a difference," probably won't be satisfied until they ban smoking entirely from motion pictures and the earth as well.

Didn't the producers of Casino Royale prevent actor Daniel Craig from smoking cigars in the recent Bond pic? I do remember it being pretty violent, though.

I paid a visit to the ratings page, and following are their guidelines for an R-rating:
R - Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) - "In the opinion of the Rating Board, this film definitely contains some adult material. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about this film before they allow their children to accompany them. An R-rated film may include strong language, violence, nudity, drug abuse, other elements, or a combination of the above, so parents are counseled in advance to take this advisory rating very seriously."

Besides, you don't have to go to the movies to see extreme behavior. Just last night, The O'Reilly Factor broadcast video of a thug pummeling a 91-year-old man almost to death as others looked on and did nothing. Of course, it was highly newsworthy, but you get the point.

If a movie has smoking scenes in it, why stop at 'R.' Why not just make it 'NC-17' which says "this is a film that most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17" - the age at which adolescents can't purchase tobaccos in most states.

It's bad enough we have the government raising tobacco taxes and passing anti-smoking legislation almost on a daily basis. Is liberal Hollywood now getting in on the act? I thought they of all people would leave the smokers alone.

Like anything else, the more fuss you make over restricting something the more people want it. It's human nature, like American cigar smokers who buy Cuban cigars on the black market. If kids want to something, they'll find a way to get it. Ms. Titus was right about that - it probably won't make a difference.

The MPAA ratings may help some parents as a guide, but it's the parents' responsibility to teach their children what's good and what's not good for them. And so what if you keep the kids out of the theatre? The DVD will be out in a few months, anyway, if they haven't already downloaded it.


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