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For Immediate Release
December 17, 2003
Media Contact: 410-576-6357

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY WILLING TO ADDRESS YOUTH SMOKING CONCERNS

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that entertainment industry executives are willing to work cooperatively to address the growing public health concern of depictions of smoking in the movies, following a meeting with industry representatives and state Attorneys General.

Attorney General Curran was joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Vermont, and Utah in discussions to educate movie and television directors about the major consequences of glamorizing smoking in the movies and gratuitous smoking in the movies - one of the major public health problems in America.

The Attorneys General met today in Los Angeles with members of the Directors Guild of America's Social Responsibility Task Force, the President of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti, and production executives of the seven major studios. The Attorneys General expressed concern that under the 1998 historic tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco companies may not pay to have their products appear in film. However, recent studies have show that there continues to be the appearance of glamorizing smoking and the appearance of cigarette brand names in film and television.

Maryland Attorney General Curran said, "We have made significant progress today in educating directors and studio production executives about the significant public health risks inherent in youth smoking from exposure to depictions of smoking in movies. Today's historic event was the first step in what I hope will be a continuing and important dialogue to prevent the deadly problem of youth smoking."

In an August 26, 2003 letter signed by 28 Attorneys General sent to Mr. Valenti, Attorney General Curran cited the Dartmouth study finding that a reduction in the prevalence of cigarette smoking in movies could drastically decrease the initiation of smoking in youth.

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, even after controlling for other factors that might influence smoking, that the children, ages 10-14, who watched the highest amount of smoking in movies were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to start smoking than those children who watched the least amount of smoking in movies. The researchers also noted that exposure to movie smoking is "almost universal" among adolescents. While recognizing the need for further study, the researchers found that their "data suggests that eliminating adolescents' exposure to movie smoking could reduce smoking by half."

Dr. Dalton presented her findings to those in attendance at the request of the Attorneys General and Mr. Valenti.

"Reducing the depiction of gratuitous smoking in movies will require bold action, but we believe the movie industry shares our goal of protecting the health of children and, therefore, is up to the task," Attorney General Curran said. An estimated 2,000 minors become new smokers every day and more than 80 percent of adult smokers today began as minors.

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

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