Hollywood has been colluding with the tobacco industry for years and continues to do so despite a voluntary agreement to curb indirect tobacco advertising in films, a study at University of California San Francisco shows.
The study was performed by Stanton A. Glanz, PhD, and colleagues at the University's Department of Medicine and published in a special supplement to Tobacco Control, a British Medical Association publication.
Product placement of cigarettes and cigars is back to levels it was before the agreement was introduced in 1990, the article declares.
Analysis of previously secret industry documents shows how the four US tobacco giants hired product placement firms to obtain maximum exposure in movies. Philip Morris also worked to place products in TV.
An excerpt from a Philip Morris marketing plan from the early 1970s reads: “We believe that most of the strong, positive images for cigarettes and smoking are created by cinema and television.”
A decade later, a speech for the chairman-elect of the company board said: “We must continue to exploit new opportunities to get cigarettes on screen and into the hands of smokers.”
Between 1978 and 1988, Philip Morris reported placing its products in more than 191 movies, 48 of which were rated PG (Parental Guidance), and in five MTV music videos. The films included Grease, Rocky II, Crocodile Dundee, Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Field of Dreams.
But the documents also show the willingness of the movie industry to work with the tobacco companies, the study reveals.
Some Hollywood executives and celebrities took advantage of free supplies of cigarettes from the companies, prompting one actor/director to provide assurances that he would use the product in his next film. In 1982, the producers of a Bond movie, Never Say Never, agreed for Sean Connery and other principal players to exclusively smoke Winston and Camel cigarettes in return for $10,000, the study shows.
At one point, Sylvester Stallone signed an agreement with Brown and Williamson for $500,000 to guarantee to use their products in no less than five feature films, according to the study. And Twentieth Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising offered to promote Phillip Morris products in return for $100,000. The deal included the rights to script approval for placement of products.
Documents cited in the study also show how funding was withdrawn if there was a suspicion that cigarettes were not being used in a positive light, as in Superman III.
After Congressional hearings in 1989, the industry devised the voluntary Cigarette Advertising and Promotion Code in 1990. Since then, tobacco use in movies has increased, with 80 per cent of product placed manufactured by Philip Morris, primarily Marlboro, say the authors.
They conclude: “Until something is done to reduce and eliminate pro-tobacco images on film, motion pictures will remain one of the most powerful forces in the world promoting tobacco and serving the tobacco industry’s financial interests.”
(Reference: How the tobacco industry built its relationship with Hollywood. Tobacco Control 2002; 11 [Suppl]: i81-91.)
University of California San Francisco Department of Medicine
[Contact: Stanton A. Glanz PhD, British Medical Association ]