Walt Disney on Wednesday became the first major Hollywood studio to ban depictions of smoking, saying there would be no smoking in its family-oriented, Disney-branded films and it would "discourage" it in films distributed by its Touchstone and Miramax labels.
Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger also said in a letter to U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), whose committee last month held hearings on the effects of movie images on children, that the studio would place anti-smoking public service announcements on DVDs of any future films that feature cigarette smoking.
He said the company would encourage theater owners to screen anti-smoking public service announcements, or PSAs, before such films.
Iger cautioned, however, that "cigarette smoking is a unique problem and this PSA effort is not a precedent for any other issue."
Markey described Disney's commitment as "groundbreaking," and urged other studios to follow suit.
Dr. Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation, commended Disney's move but said the studio left "some ambiguity about what would happen in relation to Touchstone and Miramax."
Research cited by American Legacy, a nonprofit entity created out of landmark litigation between the tobacco industry and states attorneys general, shows that 90 percent of all films depict smoking -- and children with the highest exposure to smoking in movies were nearly three times more likely to start smoking.
Tobacco is featured in three-quarters of G, PG and PG-13 rated movies and 90 percent of R-rated movies, the studies showed.
The independent Weinstein Company already is using PSAs produced by American Legacy ahead of its films that depict smoking, Healton said.