Youths work to get R rating for smoking in movies 

When Tristan Meyer was 16, he noticed the amount of times characters smoked cigarettes in Hollywood films, but didn’t agree with it.

Now as an 18-year-old Pacifica High School senior, he has decided to do something about it by joining forces with the San Mateo County Tobacco Education Coalition to speak up about the influence characters in movies and mainstream media are having on young people.

“Smoking was normalized,” he said, “and I wasn’t a fan of that.”

For instance, Meyer said in the recent blockbuster hit “Avatar,” Sigourney Weaver’s character holds a cigarette for no more than six seconds on screen.

“It’s not necessary,” Meyer said. “I didn’t even notice it the first time I saw the movie, but it shows how commonplace cigarettes are.”

As a result, Meyer and the youth tobacco coalition will meet with state lawmakers at a public awareness campaign Friday to raise awareness and support for their cause.

The effort is entirely led by the county youth, said Katrina Socco, senior director of county programs.

Socco said that at the event this month, local researchers and elected officials will show their support.

The youths from the coalition have been involved in the fight to scale back the use of cigarette props in major films for nearly a decade, Meyer said.

Meyer said although the group has not yet managed to persuade Hollywood filmmakers, it has gotten local city councils, including Pacifica’s, to pass resolutions supporting the efforts. The group is focusing efforts in Daly City, Redwood City and San Mateo this year.

Meyer said three-fourths of all PG-13 movies have smoking in them and one-third of G- or PG-rated movies have some form of smoking by characters.

Meyer said the goal is to get movies with smoking or smoke products an R rating.

“Unless they depict a historical character or show the negative consequences of smoking,” he said. “Much of the smoking now doesn’t add to the movie or the character.”

If you go

Smoke-free Hollywood

When: Friday, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Redwood High School, 480 James Ave., Redwood City

Who: Assemblyman Jerry Hill, Jonathan Polansky of the UC San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control and Research, youth advocates

Why: Advocating for a smoke-free Hollywood

Source: San Mateo County Tobacco Education Coalition

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