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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Smoke-Free Movies

Smoking in movies causes young people to smoke.

Research has concluded that there is a direct relationship between exposure to smoking in movies and the number of youth who start smoking1. In other words, the more kids and teens see smoking in movies, the more likely they are to start. They are also more likely to progress to regular smoking.2


The Evidence

An estimated 37% of youth smoking in Ontario is due to onscreen smoking exposure.2 This may be because young people see their favourite actor using a tobacco product in a movie and then think smoking is a cool thing to mimic.1

Children and youth are very impressionable, and they will mimic behaviours that they observe (whether it is in real life or in movies).

An estimated 13 200 current smokers in Ontario aged 12 to 17 were recruited to smoking in a year because of watching smoking in movies. It is predicted that 4200 of these young smokers will die prematurely as a result of tobacco imagery in movies.2

The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) did a study in 2014 on the effects of smoking in movies on youth smoking. They found that 86% of movies released from 2004 to 2013 that contained tobacco images were actually rated for youth in Ontario. In comparison, 54% of these same movies were rated for youth in the United States.2 This means that youth in Ontario had a much higher exposure to onscreen tobacco images compared to youth in the US.

The Tobacco Industry

The Tobacco Industry knows that media is very influential on the development of child and youth behaviours, and so they have used tactics such as paying movie producers to promote tobacco products in movies, or paying actors to smoke their brand of cigarettes on screen.

The Tobacco Industry will go to any length to make smoking look cool to manipulate young people into becoming addicted to their products. Movies are one of the few remaining places that the Tobacco Industry can still showcase and promote its products. Help us remove this source of influence on youth today, so that we may reduce the negative effects of tobacco use later on in their lives.



Smoke-free Movies Infographic

View, download and print (PDF 188KB)



Smoke-Free Movie Night - 2016

smoke-free movie night 2016 View image → 

What Can Parents and Caregivers Do?

Join the fight for smoke-free movies! Currently, the movie rating system in Ontario doesn't include tobacco content as a rating factor. Help support a rating change in Ontario and make all new movies with tobacco imagery 18A.

Sign an Ontario Letter of Support. Send a letter to your MPP, the Ontario Minister of Consumer Services, critics for the Consumer Services, and the Ontario Film Review Board.

Change Movie Ratings - Save Lives!

What Else Can You Do?

Parents and caregivers can join Public Health Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies in the fight to protect children and teens from the impact of smoking in movies.

  • Get informed about the evidence around smoking in movies and the impact exposures to smoking and tobacco use in movies can have on kids and teens.
  • Be aware of what your kids are watching and learn which movies contain smoking. Information about tobacco content in new movie releases is provided every Thursday on the Smoke-Free Movies webpage - click on the “Now Playing” tab.
  • Talk with your children about tobacco use in movies and teach them how to be media aware. If your child does watch a movie that contains smoking, be sure to counter this exposure by talking to him/her about the health risks associated with tobacco use.
  • Send an Ontario Letter of Support to your local MPP, the Ontario Government and the Ontario Film Review Board.
  • Request a rating change by sending an “Inquiry, Comment or Complaint” form to the Ontario Film Review Board.
  • Send a selfie in support of an 18A rating using the hashtag #SmokeFreeMovies. Send it to the Ontario Film Review Board Chair: @ofrb_chair, the Minister of Consumer Affairs: @mflalonde, Hooked by Hollywood: @hookedhollywood and your local MPP twitter account!
  • Spread the word to other parents and caregivers through newsletters, letters to the editor, and discuss the issue of smoking in movies on Facebook and Twitter. Remember to use the hashtag #SmokeFreeMovies.
  • E-mail a letter to the Ontario Film Review Board to express your concerns about a youth-rated movie with tobacco, and support an 18A rating: (cc your local MPP & Minister of Consumer Affairs).
  • Mail a letter to the Ontario Film Review Board to express concerns about a youth-rated movie with tobacco and support an 18A rating. Ontario Film Review Board, 4950 Yonge Street, Suite 101B, Toronto, M2N 6K1.
  • Request that public library video collections clearly label their movies that contain tobacco use and include a warning about the risks of smoking in movies.
  • Write letters to Canadian theatre executives about the impact that smoking in movies has on children and youth. Urge them to counter tobacco images in movies by placing effective and strong anti-tobacco messages (at distributor’s and exhibitor’s expense) before movies that depict tobacco images.
  • Write letters to federal and provincial ministries that administer film subsidies and request that all G, PG, or 14A rated films with tobacco images are ineligible for public subsidies.
  • Sign the Global Petition to keep smoking out of child-rated movies!

Tell Them Your Selfie Campaign

Show your support for a change to the movie rating system by sharing a selfie with your social media network. The goal of the campaign is to educate and engage parents, caregivers and the public, and show Hollywood that families and friends everywhere want smoking out of the movies that kids see most. Mention the Ontario Film Review Board (@ofrb_chair) in your post to show them you want movies to be safe for kids - make all new movies with tobacco imagery 18A!

5 simple steps to participate:

  1. Download and print one of the #RateSmoking18 signs below.
  2. Take your selfie photo with the sign.
  3. Share the photo online using your social media accounts - Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  4. Use the hashtags #RateSmoking18 and #SmokeFreeMovies to promote the campaign.
  5. Be sure to mention the Ontario Film Review Board (@ofrb_chair) and the Minister of Consumer Affairs (@mflalonde) in your post to show them your support for change. Share your selfie with @MLHealthUnit and your local MPP on Twitter.

International Week of Action for Smoke-Free Movies

The International Week of Action for Smoke-Free Movies is used by a number of organizations across the world to raise awareness about the issue of smoking in movies and its negative impacts on young people. The week comes to an end on the eve of the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars.

Last year, over 130 youth from Ontario and the U.S., including 10 youth from London and Middlesex County, joined forces at Toronto City Hall to call for a change to the movie rating system.

Smoke-Free Movie Nights

The Middlesex-London Health Unit has hosted outdoor movie nights in Victoria Park and Strathroy’s Fairgrounds Aquatic Park since 2012. The goal of the movie nights is to raise awareness among parents and caregivers about the issue of smoking in movies, and to promote ways they can protect kids and teens from the risks associated with exposure to tobacco imagery in movies.

Last year, approximately 3000 people were in attendance at the Victoria Park Smoke-Free Movie Night. This year may prove to be even more successful – watch for event posters in late summer!

Date of creation: February 26, 2013
Last modified on: February 17, 2017


1University of California San Francisco. Bibliography of research on smoking in the movies. Retrieved from
2Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. (2014). Exposure to On-Screen Tobacco in Movies among Ontario Youth, 2004 - 2013. Retrieved from