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Smoke-free Movies

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What is Smoke-free Movies?

Smoke-free Movies (external link) is a campaign to inform parents, caregivers and youth about the harmful effects of exposure to on screen tobacco in movies and its impact on kids. The World Health Organization, U.S. Surgeon General and many health organizations in Ontario agree that action should be taken to ban smoking in youth-rated movies.

What is the connection between movies and kids’ behaviour?

  • Smoking in movies is one of the last ways that tobacco is promoted to kids in Ontario.
  • Movies influence kids’ attitudes and behaviours and research shows a strong link between smoking in movies and teens smoking.

    For example:
    • Actors smoking in movies are portrayed as glamorous, edgy, rebellious, and cool. 1
    • Younger kids pretend to be their favourite movie characters and teens look up to movie celebrities as role models. 2
    • Movie characters smoke three times more than people in real life. 3,4
    • The more kids see smoking in movies the more likely they are to start smoking. 5

Why is smoking in movies an issue in Ontario?

  • Because Ontario’s current movie rating system doesn't take tobacco images into consideration when rating movies, kids in Ontario are much more likely to see smoking in movies than kids in the United States. 6
  • In Ontario, 86% of movies that feature tobacco receive a youth rating (G, PG or 14A) versus 56% in the United States. 7
  • During the past 7 years, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit estimates that 92,000 of Ontario’s teens started to smoke because they saw smoking in the movies.

What can be done to help protect kids from seeing smoking in the movies?

The Ontario Film Review Board classifies movies based on a variety of elements, but smoking is not one of them. If new movies with smoking were given an adult rating in Ontario, studies show it would reduce the number of teens who start smoking in future. 8,9,10

Tips to help parents and caregivers make a difference


  1. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. (2010) Tobacco Vector. Website: (external link)
  2. James Sargeant. (2005) Smoking in Movies: Impact on Adolescent Smoking. Adolescent Medicine Clinics vol. 16, 345-370
  3. Stanton A Glantz.
  4. Physicians For A Smoke-Free Canada. 2011. Website.
  5. Todd Heatherington and James Sargeant. Ibid.
  6. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. (2014) Exposure to Onscreen Tobacco in Movies among Ontario Youth, 2004-2013
  7. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Ibid.
  8. James Sargeant. Ibid
  9. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Ibid
  10. Smoke-Free Ontario Scientific Advisory Committee. (2011) Evidence to Guide Action: Comprehensive Tobacco Control in Ontario