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For Immediate Release
August 26, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

CURRAN WRITES TO MOTION PICTURE ASSOCIATION
CALLING FOR REDUCTION IN MOVIE SMOKING
24 Attorneys General Sign Curran's Letter in Support of the Effort

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that he has sent a letter signed by 24 other Attorneys General, calling for a reduction in smoking in the movies. Citing a recent Dartmouth College study finding that a reduction in the prevalence of cigarette smoking in movies could drastically decrease the initiation of smoking in youth, Attorney General Curran urges the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti, "to effect what could be one of the most far-reaching benefits on public health in our generation."

Describing the motion picture industry as "uniquely situated to bring about sweeping change to prevent youth smoking," Curran asks Valenti to rally the industry to move from "being a source of the problem to being recognized as a critically important force in solving the nation's deadly problem of youth smoking."

"This important appeal asks the motion picture industry to more positively use the its influence over the choices our young people make," Attorney General Curran said. "Reducing the depiction of smoking in movies will require bold action, but we believe the industry shares our goal of protecting the health of children and, therefore, is up to the task."

In June, a research team from the Dartmouth Medical School published what is being called the broadest research to date, scientific evidence that exposure to smoking in movies has a significant impact on youth initiation of smoking. The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, was conducted by Dr. Madeline Dalton and a team of researchers. Their research reveals that the children, ages 10-14, who watched the highest amount of smoking in movies were nearly three times more likely to start smoking than those children who watched the least amount of smoking in movies.

While recognizing the need for further study, the researchers offered the following insight: "The effect of exposure to movie smoking is important, both because the effect on smoking initiation is moderately strong and because the exposure is almost universal. Based on the lists of 50 randomly selected movies, less than one percent of the participants were unexposed to movie smoking. If the link between exposure to smoking in movies and smoking initiation proves to be casual, our data suggest that eliminating adolescents' exposure to movie smoking could reduce smoking initiation by half."

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer on June 11, 2003, sent a letter to Valenti and major studio heads urging them to help address this critical public health problem. To date, Lockyer has not received a response from either Valenti or the studios.

In 1998, the National Association of Attorneys General passed a resolution asking actors and actresses and the motion picture industry to take steps to reduce use of tobacco by children under 18. The resolution, citing tobacco-related illnesses and deaths caused by underage smoking, called upon members of the motion picture industry to voluntarily review the use of cigars and cigarettes in film to eliminate or reduce use of tobacco and tobacco products; and to consider establishing and maintaining public education programs and other activities specifically designed to discourage children from ever using tobacco and tobacco products.

While smoking rates have declined in recent years, teens continue to smoke at an unacceptable rate: almost 90 percent of current adult smokers began as teens and 28.5 percent of all high school students smoke, with an estimated 2,000 minors becoming new daily smokers every day.

From the landmark settlement with the tobacco industry to negotiated agreements on best sales practices with industry giants like BP Amoco, Walgreens and ExxonMobil, Attorney General Curran has made reducing youth smoking a priority of his administration.

Other state/territory attorneys general signing on to Curran's letter are the attorneys general of: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, N. Mariana Islands, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.


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