Walt Disney to Snuff Smoking in Some Films

By Andy Fixmer
Bloomberg News
Thursday, July 26, 2007

Walt Disney Co., responding to congressional calls for Hollywood to discourage tobacco use, will eliminate cigarette smoking from some films.

Family movies from Disney, the first studio to make the pledge, will not show cigarette smoking, and executives will discourage such scenes in Touchstone and Miramax productions, the company said yesterday.

Disney also will include anti-smoking advertisements on DVDs with films that show cigarette smoking and will ask theater owners to run the ads before those movies. Chief executive Robert Iger made the commitment in a letter to Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications subcommittee.

"Disney's decision to take a stand against smoking is groundbreaking," Markey said on his Web site. "Now it's time for other media companies to similarly kick the habit and follow Disney's lead."

Disney's statement is "cigarette specific," Markey spokeswoman Jessica Schafer said.

Universal Studios, owned by General Electric, began reducing smoking in youth-oriented films in April. Movies with smoking will carry a "health warning," the studio said yesterday.

"It is important to use our influence to help stem a serious health problem in the United States and around the world," Ron Meyer, Universal's president, said in the e-mailed statement. "It's possible to do that while respecting filmmakers' creative choices."

From 1999 to 2006, smoking appeared in 161 of Disney's 216 films, according to a study by Stanton A. Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, who runs the Smoke Free Movies project. That included 64 percent of "youth-rated" films and 92 percent of R-rated films, he said. More than 30 percent of Disney's G-rated and PG-rated films had smoking scenes, according to the project's Web site.

The Motion Picture Association of America said in May it would consider smoking as a factor in rating movies.

Iger has undertaken other health initiatives. This year, Disney theme parks will eliminate foods with trans fats that contribute to heart disease. The company will license characters only for foods low in sugar, fat and calories by the end of 2008.

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