Hollywood Just Won A Major Lawsuit Over Smoking In The Movies

While Leo has gotten the memo, Hollywood stars still smoke, despite the fact that smoking has steadily been declining since the 1960s. And that offends some people who dislike smoking, so they brought a lawsuit, and that lawsuit has unfolded about as you’d expect.

The class-action suit, filed by Timothy Forsyth, argued that by not making any movie that featured tobacco use in it an automatic R, the MPAA was misleading parents. Forsyth argued that since 200,000 kids a year started smoking because of the movies, that the MPAA was misrepresenting the content of those movies. The MPAA’s counter-argument was that they offered opinions, not a guide to the social values movies represent. The judge ultimately ruled with the MPAA, largely because both PG and PG-13 movies have the words “may contain material not suitable” in the rating itself.

It’s reasonable to give both sides of this argument the side-eye. That the MPAA claims not to represent “social values” is a fairly questionable assertion considering the organization’s tendency to give movies featuring gay people automatic R-ratings regardless of the actual content. But Forsyth is in for his fair share of questioning too; he’s correct that the government claims that depictions on film, among other factors, may inspire kids to start smoking, but if you click on that link, it takes you to a Surgeon General’s report that has no data to back up the claim.

While this is arguably a win for tobacco, by the same token, questionable science shouldn’t be supported by the courts. The idea that kids imitate what they see mindlessly and without consideration is at best suspect, so in the long run, closing the door on arguments like this is a good thing.

(via The Guardian)