A recent interview with Dan Greenberg, the Director of Strategy and Distribution for new Cignature Film Studios highlighted a very real problem with Hollywood and the entertainment industry. For decades, movies and television have been glamorizing the smoking of cigarettes despite the adverse and well known potentially fatal side effects.
Greenberg has a background at MSCHF Internet Studios where they simply create internet for the internet. Their influence is strong and creative. They're behind smart Man Eating Food and Times Newer Roman. According to Greenberg, "We create 'internet' to make statements about the world we live in, in ways that tens of millions of people have already experienced online. This time around, we decided to take on smoking."
Cignature is taking popular movies and tv shows and re-editing them without the use of cigarettes. Instead of cigarettes, they are replacing them with kazoos. The small instruments popular with little kids, and no one else is meant to show how numb we are to cigarettes and smoking. Greenberg also said, "By replacing all instances of cigarettes with kazoos, we highlight just how ridiculously pervasive cigarettes are in popular media… which we usually completely glance over."
The numbers on smoking in the media are surprisingly high. 57% of all movies rated PG-13 showed some form of tobacco use. Smoking is almost always portrayed as cool, sexy, sultry or satisfying, or a combination of all. The reality is that it's not.
According to the Truth Initiative, 44% of adolescents who smoke started because of something they saw in a movie. Knowing this, Greenberg and his team made it their mission to end the normalcy of smoking in media. Cignature Films was formed behind the idea that something as dangerous as tobacco shouldn't be influencing so many people.
They'll be taking the shows Mad Men and Stranger Things, as well as movies like Fight Club and The Godfather and giving them a new tobacco-free look. Kazoos are being CGI'd on every cigarette lit on screen. It looks a little ridiculous and is meant to be fun, but knowing the harmful effects of cigarettes, it's crazy to think how ok we all are with them.
According to the CDC, 16 million Americans live with a disease caused by smoking. Worldwide tobacco is responsible for 6 million deaths every year. Fortunately, tobacco companies are banned from advertising on television. There's a reason for that but they need to find a way to sell their product.
Smoking is constantly being depicted in movies and their screen time has actually increased in recent years. Why is that? And why are cigarettes so prevalent in film? It's part of their history. The old golden days of Hollywood in the 40s, 50s, and 60s had rampant smoking. It was featured regularly on tv in those decades and no one batted an eye.
We didn't know yet what smoking could do to a person.
Some of the most glamours stars from this classy time like Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, and Lucille Ball all smoked regularly and openly throughout their careers. They made it look sexy and fun. And really cool. They're just a handful of the hundreds of actors and actresses that all smoked. Many even endorsed their favorite cigarette brands by appearing in ads and doing commercials.
Years later every single one of them died from something related to smoking. Bogart succumbed to esophagus cancer, Sinatra had a heart attack after a stroke, Davis also had a stroke, and Ball died from an aneurysm after having multiple strokes. All of these deaths were directly linked to tobacco use which is something not mentioned when we remember their legacies.
Smoking slowly became more taboo as science pushed back against the aggressive tobacco industry. How I Met Your Mother and Friends were both modern sitcoms that follow people in their 20s. Each show dedicated storylines to shaming characters for smoking and urging their friends to quit.
The nicotine in cigarettes is the highly addictive substance that sucks people in and keeps them smoking. Smoking makes people feel good in the short term by increasing the levels of dopamine in their brain. Dopamine makes you feel good and happy. This effect from cigarettes is almost immediate and happens when you take that first deep drag.
Anyone who has ever smoked knows what we're talking about. Since images from movies and TV have been proven to influence youth into smoking, smoking should become less and less mainstream. The good news is that there has been some progress.
In 2015, Disney announced that they would ban smoking in all films produced by Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar. This is huge. If you pay attention you will notice that none of the characters smoke. Disney's reach is massive and their influence is incomparable to other companies around the globe.
PREVIOUSLY: 10 Disney Movies Coming Out In 2019
Movies will never be able to completely eliminate smoking. It could be vital to the background or personality of a character or crucial to the plot. In these instances, it would be best to portray tobacco use as harmful with the strong possibility of long-term and fatal side effects.
To be real, smoking is a dirty habit. It smells terrible and it lingers heavily. Cigarettes cause yellow teeth and wrinkles. Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. The harmful possibilities are so well known its baffling to understand why anyone would choose to start smoking these days. Curiosity is to blame but let's not make people curious about smoking in the first place.
People will always smoke but the less who start in their youth the better it will be for all of us. Hollywood's portrayal of smoking contributes to a very real problem that Cignature Films is setting out to fix. Tell us. Are you a smoker or used to be one? Have you ever noticed how tobacco use in Hollywood is used or how often? Let us know your thoughts!