Rated ‘R’ for smoking

Opinions_SmokingTop US medical practitioner calls on Hollywood to drop smoking from films

By Patrick Vaillancourt, Columnist

I would like to first strongly emphasize that, while I made a choice to start smoking 10 years ago, I completely acknowledge that it’s indeed a bad habit which could lead to serious negative health effects for me later in life. I’m not an advocate for the pro-smoking lobby (if that even exists anymore) nor do I condone tobacco companies for their efforts to make smoking cigarettes appealing to a younger generation.

That being said, the choice to smoke is much like any other decision an individual makes: a personal one, the consequences of which the individual must bear. Society, through the values instilled in each of us through our parents, schools, and community, is responsible for equipping us with the tools to make proper decisions in our own lives, not to filter out what we may or may not be exposed to.

It’s this belief that makes me so fundamentally opposed to the call from the US surgeon-general to have Hollywood rate any films containing smoking within them as restricted.

Dr. Boris Lushniak, the acting US surgeon-general, believes that there is a “direct causal link” between adolescent-smoking and tobacco-use in film.

“Anything that can be done to help reduce that imagery, to reduce that sense that smoking is a norm, is helpful,” he said at a White House briefing.

This attitude comes from the same school of thought that believes violent video games make teenagers more violent, a long-held belief which has been debunked in study after study.

Hollywood’s job is to entertain us, not to coddle our kids. If parents want to ensure their children stay away from cigarettes, it’s up to them to lead by example and to educate their offspring on the dangers and high costs of a cigarette habit. There are groups, predominantly in the United States, who make it their business to blame everyone for producing items or content with violence, sex, or drugs. And while they are out protesting, they forget to raise their own kids or discipline them for their questionable behaviour. Teaching children right from wrong begins at home.

It’s also worth noting that kids tend to think something is cooler when it is restricted from them. I went to my first R-rated movie when I was nine years old. I could have waited for the movie to come out on VHS (yes, I’m that old) and watch it at home, but there was, for me, a greater sense of autonomy and adulthood when I asked my mother to take me to the cinema. After all, watching Friday the 13th on the big screen was far better than watching it on the 30-inch television we had at home. And guess what? Watching that film didn’t make me go on a masked, knife-wielding killing spree.

To give films an automatic R-rating simply because of smoking will make the habit more forbidden, and thus more appealing to youth. Sheltering children from something isn’t the answer to eliminating something so detrimental to society.