As the debate rages over adding some type of warning to films that include on-screen smoking, critics love to call these types of warnings “censorship.” The argument rings false, as applying a warning system does not force a producer to eliminate scenes of tobacco use. We don’t care if smoking is in a film, we just want to know about it.
Similarly, critics love to ask why parents do not take “personal responsibility” if they want to protect their children from any offensive content in films. As parents, we all know the simple answer: it is hard to know in advance when a film, television show, video game, or CD contains offensive material. So, most of us rely on the existing ratings systems to give us some guidance. Using such ratings systems… and remaining open to discussions about difficult subjects… is frequently the best we can do as parents. The alternative would be for all of us to screen these products ourselves. Good luck fitting that into the typical schedule of a busy household.
Since there seems to be so much resistance to using the existing structure of the MPAA Ratings System to provide information about on-screen smoking, and since most parents do not have the time to preview movies themselves, the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation has decided to create this website as a possible solution.
One of the goals of SmokeScreeners is to provide information on tobacco use in movies. You can find a detailed description of our ratings system that explains how films are scored, as well as a database of film reviews. Our other goal, however, is more important. We want children and teenagers to look at on-screen smoking with a critical eye. We encourage families, especially children, to use our ratings sheets to review any film that they see at home (on VHS or DVD) or in the theater… even if that film has already been reviewed! We also want them to make comments and submit those reviews to SmokeScreeners. By looking at films that they have seen many times and watching for scenes that include smoking, your children will become more aware of the presence of smoking in films and its false sense of glamour.
In time, we hope to be able to screen movies before they even open in the theaters. For now, however, we will do the best we can to get the word out to parents who are interested in this issue. With your help, we can show the critics that we are taking “personal responsibility” as we press Hollywood and Big Tobacco to take a little “corporate responsibility".