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Taxpayer Film Subsidies Promote Youth Smoking

By Elizabeth Fernandez, Public Affairs | August 23, 2011

State governments, including California as well as others in Canada and the United Kingdom, pour hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into major motion pictures that depict smoking – leading to thousands of new teen smokers every year, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researcher has found.

According to a survey published in PLoS Medicine, those subsidies, along with government inaction on stricter ratings for movies that depict smoking, also promote youth smoking and undermine tobacco control efforts.

In California, approximately 70 percent of all released PG-13 movies subsidized under the state’s program depict smoking, researchers have independently found.

S.Glantz"California’s state film subsidy program is undermining its longstanding tobacco control efforts," said lead author Stanton Glantz, PhD, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the Smoke Free Movies Project based at UCSF. "These activities never made sense, but are even more remarkable at a time when health and education programs are being slashed."

Stanton Glantz, PhD

“In addition to ending subsidies for films that promote smoking, modernizing the rating system to give smoking films an R rating will provide a market incentive for producers to keep smoking out of movies that they market to adolescents.”

In the United States, 40 states offer a combined $1.3 billion in film and video “production incentives” to the film industry, the article reports citing data from 2008. The bulk of the annual funds come from five states: New York, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

“These grants, commonly in the form of tax credits, cover 25 percent of Hollywood’s day-to-day production costs,” the study said. “TV series and undistributed low-budget film also draw from the subsidy pool.”

Read more at Elizabeth Fernandez, Public Affairs