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Closed Set: Hollywood's Romance with the Tobacco Industry. EXPOSED. THE GOLDEN ERA. In the 50’s and 60’s what was it that made the stars of the silver screen seem so glamorous?. Prop-eranda?. Cigarettes were the perfect prop to develop a character’s personality on screen.

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Closed Set:

Hollywood's Romance

with the Tobacco Industry


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In the 50’s and 60’s what was it that made the stars of the silver screen seem so glamorous?

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Cigarettes were the perfect prop to develop a character’s personality on screen.

  • James Dean- Rebel Without a Cause

  • Audrey Hepburn- Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • Bette Davis- All About Eve

  • Vivian Leigh- A Street Car Named Desire

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And it continues …

The use of cigarettes as a prop has endured decades …

  • Julia Roberts- My Best Friends Wedding

  • Brad Pitt- Fight Club

  • Cameron Diaz- Charlie’s Angels

  • Worm Guys- MIB II

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Product Placement

  • Golden Eye- BMW Z3 Roadster

  • Spiderman- Terminix

  • Gold Member- Mini Cooper

  • MIB II- Burger King

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  • MIB II- Marlboro

  • Road to Perdition- Lucky Strike

  • Training Day- Newport

  • There’s Something About Mary- Kool

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How is it that Burger King is willing to shell out $15 million for the same airtime Marlboro supposedly got for free?

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Subliminal Measures

“Film is better than any commercial that has been run on television or in any magazine, because the audience is totally unaware of any sponsor involvement.”

Robert Richards, President of Productions, Inc in 1972

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Hidden Payments

"Recently there have been a number of high-visibility feature films in which one or more of the central characters smoke a particular brand of cigarettes. This has been happening because cigarette manufacturers have been paying for the exposure."

Letter written to B&W from its PR firm in 1982

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Product Placement

“For a monthly fee, Rogers and Cowan will arrange to obtain placement of RJR products, packages, and advertising in films through smoking scenes in which actors are shown smoking … Film placement of RJR brands will create favorable imagery and presence as advertising restrictions intensify.”

A 1990 agreement between RJR International and its PR firm

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How Tobacco Woos Hollywood


  • Hires PR Firms to place products in films 1981

  • Sends cartons of cigarettes to the hottest celebrities 1981

  • Sends cars, money and jewelry to thank celebrities for using tobacco products in their films 1972-1989

  • Creates verbal and non-verbal contracts between themselves and movie studios, producers and celebrities 1972-1989

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RJ Reynolds

  • Paid to have their products in specific movies and have them smoked by specific actors

  • Took great interests in what rival tobacco company was doing to get Marlboros on screen

  • Sent monthly mailings of free cigarettes to 188 actors and celebrities who smoke in order to get them to light up on screen

  • Completed a mailing to female celebrities inviting them to try the new More Lights 100’s

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Philip Morris

  • Provided free cigarettes for use in “adult films” such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Grease and Die Hard

  • Paid Superman II producers $43,000 to include Marlboro in a movie

  • Studios, including Fox, solicited money from Philip Morris to put smoking on screen

  • Bragged about placing their product in over 191 movies between 1978 and 1988, including The Muppet Movie

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Brown & Williamson

  • Arranged to pay Sylvester Stallone $500,000 in 1983 to use its cigarettes in at least five movies

  • Kept a “second set of books” for money that was supposed to spent on product placement in movies

  • Released cinema advertisements that ran before previews in 1983, which also ran before Disney’s animated film Snow White

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Hands Up

In 1989 congress began to question the tobacco industry’s marketing practices relating to tobacco product placement. BIG TOBACCO DENIES EVERYTHING …

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“Tobacco companies do not encourage smoking scenes in movies. They never request changes, and have never been given the right to make changes to any film.”

Charles Whitely of the Tobacco Institute, July 7, 1989

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“[Brown and Williamson] did not know of any situation in which it caused a smoking scene to appear in a movie or television program since 1979.”

B&W’s Response to Congress

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Pressure takes over

“No payment shall be made by any cigarette manufacturer or any agent thereof for the placement of any cigarettes, cigarette packages, or cigarette advertisements as a prop in any movie produced for viewing by the general public.”

Marketing Code: Philip Morris; March 1993

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  • 9 out of 10 Hollywood films in the 90’s included the use of tobacco

  • In the 90’s, Tobacco was used once every three to five minutes and increased to once every 10-15 minutes in movies from the 70’s and 80’s

  • Between 1988 and 1997, 20% of movies rated for children contained smoking instances

  • Brand exposure through actor use increased from 1% before the industry's voluntary restriction on product placement to 11% afterward

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“No Participating Manufacturer may … make or cause to be made, any payment or other consideration to any other person or entity to use, display, make reference to or use as a prop any Tobacco Product, Tobaccos Product package, advertisement for a Tobacco Product or any other item baring a brand name in any motion picture, television show, theatrical production or other live performance, live or recorded performance of music, commercial film or video, or video game…”

National Association of Attorneys General. Master Settlement Agreement. 1998.

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Smoking Guns

  • In 1998, 74% of leading characters smoked

    • Men

    • Women

    • Ethnicities

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How does this affect us?

  • Teens idolize stars as trend setters and begin to imitate their actions

  • Teens whose favorite stars smoke are 16 times more likely to develop positive feeling toward smoking

  • Teens who view lots of smoking in movies are 2½ times more likely to start smoking

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Time for a Reality Check

Is Big Tobacco the real Hollywood Player?

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  • Create awareness among teens of how smoking is portrayed in movies

  • Educate youth on the tobacco industry’s involvement with Hollywood

  • Bring about a change in the way people, especially teens, view smoking in future movies

  • Persuade Hollywood to accurately reflect the percentage of smokers in films to portray smokers in real life, as well as implore that they realistically portray the health effects of smoking in films

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Here’s How

  • Edumacate Hollywood

  • Rental Pops

  • Unscripted

  • Stomp

  • EZ Weezy

  • Youth Action Project Report and Reality Check After Party

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Edumacate Hollywood

  • Goal: 2,000 letters from each county


  • Write letters to:

    • Local movie theaters

    • MPAA

    • Celebrities

  • Collect petitions

  • Create public awareness slide

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Rental Pops

  • Goal: Place more than 1,000 palm cards in movie cases

  • Insert Palm Cards in movie cartridges with high smoking prevalence in video stores

  • Targeted movies:

    • MIB II

    • XXX

    • Sum of All Fears

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  • Goal: To include your column and Smoke Free Ads in your local publications

  • Rate and watch latest flicks

  • Work with local media sources

  • Create movie column

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  • Goal: Educate youth about the relationship between Big Tobacco and Hollywood

  • Movie night

  • Create a flyer

  • Movies to focus on:

    • MIB II

    • XXX

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EZ Weezy

  • Goal: To send more than 5,000 email letters per county to Hollywood

  • Visit

  • Draft letters

  • Organize Reality Check members

  • Send out e-mail blast

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Reality Check After Party

  • Goal: To organize a celebrationand to get county-wide press coverage

  • A county-wide press conference to release your findings and your Youth Action Project Report

  • A creative and awesome event that highlights your efforts for the Youth Action Project and celebrates its success

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Closed Set:

Hollywood's Romance

with the Tobacco Industry