Should Movies Featuring Cigarette Smoking Garner R-Ratings?

Holy smokes! The MPAA is in the headlines again: this time, concerned moviegoers have their sights set on the other kind of fag—cigarettes, that is. Because of the surge in teen smoking, the almighty ratings board is coming under fire for allowing smoking scenes to show up in PG-13 movies.

PG-13 rated movies account for nearly two-thirds of the smoking scenes adolescents are exposed to at the theaters, according to a survey of roughly 5,000 children ages 10-14. These movies apparently hold the same sway as an R-rated movie when linked to the rate of real-world experimentation. Hopefully, this wasn’t the reason why that 2-year old Indonesian toddler started his nasty nicotine habit.

"Adolescents are trying to figure out what they’re all about and what their identity is," Dr. Michael C. Fiore, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research, in Madison. "They figure this out by watching their parents and their friends, and movie stars are like very high-profile peers. When they see people [smoking a cigarette], they think this might make them look cool. As they become more convinced there’s something in it for them, they become more likely to try it."

Here is a list of movies that have likely caused impressionable hellions to light up—after all, le cancer: c’est chic! 

Clearly, Audrey Hepburn is the original female icon for making smoking look chic—she lights up in a total of eight different scenes, almost setting fire to a woman’s hat in one of them, proving cigarettes are a fire hazard in addition to bad for your health! Not only that, her neighbor and partner in crime Paul is almost never seen without a cancer stick dangling from his lips. And who can forget the immensely imitated photograph of her propping her cigarette holder aloft in lustrous black gloves at a cheeky angle? No one said having Breakfast at Tiffany’s was healthy!
 

The PG-13-rated Gattaca has perhaps the most impressive use of combining liquor and smoke: Vincent (played by Ethan Hawke) describes the planet of Titan to Jerome (Jude Law) by blowing smoke directly into his wineglass, no doubt immediately inspiring an army of wannabe-Hawke tweens to imitate the gesticulation. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a sip of cigarette-residue infused wine? 
 

In addition to a cig-loving Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), the protagonist in Moonrise Kingdom, a 12-year-old boy named Sam, has a penchant for pipe-smoking and running away, both highly recommended activities for any trend-setting preteen. However, considering director Wes Anderson’s fondness for having his characters puff up in many of his films (ie: Margot’s unfaltering nicotine habit), it’s really not totally shocking. 
 

Typically, when a movie trailer opens to a guy with a cigarette dangling from his mouth in a leather jacket, it means that that guy is awesome. Therefore, imitating that guy must be awesome. Especially because it’s John Travolta. So goes the psyche of any normal teenager from the ’70s and their blossoming cig addiction. No wonder my IQ is so low, my mom was breathing in secondhand smoke from my dad’s Travolta-inspired Camels! The horror!

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