Our Voices Xposed (OVX) Youth Movement Takes on the Oscars
Health Department Supports Efforts to Expose Link Between Smoking and Movies
For Immediate Release: February 25, 2005
Tobacco Control Chief
VT Department of Health
Office of the Attorney General
Kelliher Samets Volk
BURLINGTON - Students across Vermont are talking about the high rate of cigarette smoking in PG-13 movies aimed at teens through a series of events that begins with the airing of the Oscars movie awards on Sunday, February 27.
Members of Our Voices Xposed (OVX), a youth-led movement that is focused on exposing the truth about tobacco, will be holding a mock Oscars awards ceremony at the Milton Teen Center on the afternoon of February 27, hours before the Oscars are broadcast nationwide from Hollywood.
More than 100 youth, dressed as their favorite actors and actresses, are expected to attend the Milton event. Similar OVX events protesting smoking in the movies will be held in March and April at Mount Mansfield Union High School, Middlebury Union High School and the Barre Teen Action Center.
“When I go to the movies, I always wonder if that many people really smoke cigarettes,” said Justin Marquis, a 13-year-old member of OVX who lives in Milton. “What we’ve found out is that they don’t, but Hollywood might as well be making ads for tobacco companies when so many people light up cigarettes on screen.”
For all movies rated PG-13, 80 percent show someone smoking. Smoking in the movies more than doubled from 4.9 times per hour in the early 1980s to 10.9 times per hour in 2002, while smoking in the population declined over that same time period.
Hollywood movie producers and tobacco companies have a long history of working together:
- “We believe that most of the strong, positive images for cigarettes and smoking are created by cinema and television.” (Philip Morris marketing plan, 1989)
- “For a monthly fee, Rogers and Cowan will arrange to obtain placement of RJR products, packages and advertising in films through smoking scenes in which actors are shown smoking . . . Film placement of RJR brands will create favorable imagery and presence as advertising restrictions intensify.” (RJR International agreement with its PR firm, 1990)
- In the 1988 James Bond hit movie “License to Kill,” Philip Morris paid $350,000 for actors to smoke “Lark” brand cigarettes.
- Sylvester Stallone was paid $500,000 in 1983 by Brown and Williamson to features its cigarettes in his movies.
- An estimated 390,000 youth nationwide start smoking each year because of smoking in the movies.
More facts about smoking in the movies can be found at the Our Voices Xposed Web site, www.ovx.org.
The activities of OVX around the state are supported by the Vermont Department of Health, which is kicking off its smoking-in-the-movies educational campaign in March and April. The Health Department is working with movie theaters around the state to show anti-smoking ads before the movies begin, as studies have shown this to be a good way to counter the image of smoking on the big screen.
Other tactics include television and radio ads, playing cards with facts about smoking and the movies, t-shirts and mock awards that show “Big Tobacco” with its own Hollywood Boulevard “Walk of Shame” star. An eight-minute video about the link between smoking and movies, as well as other educational materials, will be sent to school tobacco coordinators across Vermont. Educational outreach also is being done around the state by anti-tobacco community coalitions.
“Going to the movies should be a fun event, not an event luring teens into an addictive activity like smoking that annually kills an estimated 800 Vermonters and hundreds of thousands across the country,” said Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD.
The campaign also is supported by the Office of the Attorney General in Vermont. Attorney General William Sorrell has been a leading advocate for states seeking damages from tobacco companies and he frequently speaks out about how smoking is romanticized and greatly exaggerated in the movies.