Ban on smoking in movies 'infringes free speech', says MPAA
Motion Picture Association of America faces lawsuit aimed at removing tobacco imagery from films deemed suitable for children
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is attempting to defend itself against a legal complaint about smoking in films deemed suitable for children by claiming that movie ratings are opinions.
The MPAA, facing a suit that hopes to see smoking imagery banned from films rated G, PG or PG-13, is arguing that the ban would be an infringement of the first amendment right to free speech. They argue that the ratings should reflect what most US parents would think suitable viewing for their children.
Now the plaintiffs, led by Timothy Forsyth, are arguing that movie ratings are not protected by the first amendment, according to the Hollywood Reporter. They argue that the link between on-screen smoking and teenage uptake is scientifically provable and their complaint is therefore about false advertising.
“The complaint asserts that defendants cannot affix a PG-13 or lower certification on movies with tobacco imagery, because they know that it has been scientifically established that subjecting children to such imagery will result in the premature death of more than a million of them,” said Forsyth and co in a new memo.
The plaintiffs had previously noted the strong link between tobacco use on screen and uptake by young people, saying that about 4.6 million adolescents were recruited by youth-rated movies to smoking. Among the blockbusters they used as examples were Spectre, Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Woman in Black. The MPAA has argued that the link between on-screen smoking and uptake by youths is “too attenuated and speculative to support damages”.
The case, which is ongoing, could significantly alter the way films are rated if it is decided in favour of the plaintiffs and potentially clear the way for further suits covering alcohol use, gambling and high-speed driving.