If you got ’em, don’t smoke ’em

Bogart_1Maybe we should all move to Auckland.

This week, New Zealand snuffed out efforts by its Health Ministry to automatically give an R rating to movies that show smoking—a proposal that would essentially equate cigarettes with graphic violence, explicit language and full-frontal nudity.

The same concept has been gaining support in this hemisphere. But despite all its perceived tongue-rotting, finger-staining evilness, Big Tobacco was ahead of its critics this year. Ditching the benefits of product placement, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds actually requested that Hollywood remove any specific cigarette-brand imagery from its movies (at least in time for the DVD).

All of which feels a bit hysterical. Would the guys in American Graffiti really have smoked gas-station generics rather than Camels? Didn’t Marlboros seem significant in Apocalypse Now? Would Jim Jarmusch even have a career?

To appease the nonsmokers, perhaps theaters could show more anti-smoking ads instead. That would be reasonable—assuming there’s enough time between the Pepsi spot and the “visit our concessions stand” song.

—Posted by Randi Schmelzer

Photo: Newscom