Recently the wife and I were walking through the streets of Manhattan towards Madison Square Garden. As I was tying to convince her that attending the Big East tournament was actually a good investment (I was unsuccessful for those curious) I noticed an advertisement on the side of a bus. The ad read “Restrict Smoking To R-rated Movies.”
For those of you who have either forgotten about or just never heard of this topic, here is a brief summary. A few years back a study concluded that teens who watched R-rated movies were more likely to drink and smoke cigarettes than teens who did not. Thus the movement started to restrict smoking to R-rated movies only so that American teens would be saved from the perils of smoking.
It is amazing to me how a group of people can take one thing and turn it into something completely different. Even more incredible is when that group is able to recruit even more people to their cause. If the study were to actually be carefully scrutinized one would find that only white teens who had been exposed to R-rated movies were more likely to drink and smoke, not all teenagers.
Restricting the act of smoking in film to only R-rated movies is one of the most misguided and utterly stupid ideas I have heard of in quite some time. This plan has so many holes in not only the implementation but the reasoning of it. There are a couple of these flaws that stand out at me.
First of all I believe restricting smoking to only R-rated movies should just be a first step? Why stop there? Alcohol, after all, is a very real danger to young Americans. Since a person has to be the age of 21 to consume alcoholic beverages I believe that all images of alcohol should only be in places or movies that can be seen exclusively by individuals 21 or over. If it is legal for somebody under 21 to be in an establishment there had better be nothing to do with alcoholic beverages there.
Obviously this is a ridiculous notion. Truth be told it is no more absurd that restricting smoking to R-rated movies. Obviously there are going to be sights of one kind or another depicting alcohol to people underage, whether those sights be in magazines, television, movies, or even store windows. I don’t quite know how to break this to the geniuses who concocted this brilliant scheme, but teenagers watch R-rated movies. Just because smoking would be restricted to those films will not keep teens from seeing the images. Whether they can get into an R-rated movie or just catch a movie on HBO teens will find a way to see them.
Unfortunately for the parents looking for an easy way out, the world is much more difficult than that. If you want your kids to not see images of smoking it’s going to have to be up to you. I know parenting is a hard job but relegating parenting duties to any kind of committee is just pathetic.
Besides, perhaps it is the job of the parents to make sure their kids aren’t so easily influenced by what they see. I would like to see a study that compares teens who have been educated by their parents about smoking and drinking to teens that have not. It may sound cliché but I have faith that when teens are educated by their parents about these sort of things the teens will not be as likely to experience problems with smoking, drinking, or drugs.
It’s always easy to blame somebody else when it comes to our kids. Blaming movies for teens starting to smoke is like blaming Superman for kids trying to fly by jumping off roofs. If parents were to explain that humans just can’t fly their kids will probably not try to do it. Instead of taking the time to complain about something like this parents need to take action. Have a discussion with your kids and explain to them that the actor in the movie is just portraying a character. Chances are that actor probably doesn’t even smoke in his real life. Having a dialogue with teens is the first step to keep them from smoking.