'Dear tobacco companies, I'd like my father back . . .'

Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

That was the message that Bay Area high school student Channing Chang wrote on the back of a flattened cigarette carton. It was one of hundreds of cartons bearing notes--from youths, civic leaders and medical school faculty--to be sent to entertainment industry executives as part of a campaign to limit scenes with cigarette smoking in new movies.

The unusual missives were on display at a July 21 news conference at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital [above], organized by hospital physicians Dania Lindenberg, MD; Seth Ammerman, MD; Lisa Chamberlain, MD, and UCSF professor Stanton Glantz, PhD. They were joined by about 30 reporters and participants, including local high school students, representatives of the American Cancer Society and the chairs of the San Jose Health Coalition.

"Smoking on screen has such an influence," said Chamberlain, "but if we were to restrict it, kids would be given 20 years more of life."

Glantz, who launched the Smoke Free Movies campaign in 2001, remarked, "Smoking on screen recruits 390,000 new adolescent smokers a year, of whom 120,000 will die from tobacco-caused diseases."

Restricting any movie or DVD that shows or implies tobacco use by giving it an "R" rating is just one of many solutions posed by the campaign. Producers should also certify "no pay-offs" in the closing credits of movies displaying tobacco; studios and theaters should run a strong anti-smoking advertisement prior to any film or DVD that contain tobacco presence regardless of rating, and there should be no tobacco brand identification or imagery in the background of any movie scene.

To find out how to join the campaign, contact movies@medicine.ucsf.edu or call (415) 476-4683. --Jordan Hubert