The number one rule on April Fool’s Day is: Don’t trust anything you see or hear. That was impossible for citizens and visitors around key locations in downtown Toronto to do, however.
That’s because youth advocates from Reality Check Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties demonstrated loudly with proven facts about smoking in movies outside Scotiabank Theatre, TIFF Lightbox Theatre and Ripley’s Aquarium. They joined approximately fifty fellow Reality Check members from Western New York, as well as fifty youth from the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies and the Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI) in Toronto, Canada.
Their demonstration, designed to push the film industry to youth-rated movies that show smoking, included student-run man on the street interviews designed to gather public opinion and spread awareness on the issue. Advocates carried “Don’t Be A Fool, Smoking in Movies Is Not Cool” posters with statistics, as well as cardboard heads of smoking movie stars from movies that feature smoking. Throughout the demonstration, members of the group shared interview clips and pictures on social media as well as roam the streets near Metro Hall, getting passers-by to sign a petition intended for the movie industry.
A 2014 report from the Surgeon General, giving an R rating to future movies with smoking would be expected to reduce the number of teen smokers by nearly 1 in 5 (18%) and prevent 1 million deaths from smoking among teens and children alive today.
That is no prank.
“Exposure to smoking on screen is harmful to our kids’ health, said Jonathan Chaffee, Reality Check coordinator for Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties. “Changing the rating to R will protect kids from tobacco promotion and reduce the risk of them ever starting to smoke.”
Schultzy Schell a Reality Check advocate from Fillmore, said the problem is the movie characters who smoke are usually seen as “cool” or “very charismatic.”
“It makes it seem like smoking is the norm, that smoking is OK,” she said, “and that’s why I think it’s such a big problem.”
This cross-border crusade is the third annual smoke-free movies demonstration for the Reality Check and Ontario groups. This year, the student advocates decided to video street interviews and share on their social channels to gain more support for Smoke Free Movies (SFM). They’ll also create an event video that they can share at their schools and in their communities. They want to show Big Tobacco and Hollywood that they are nobody’s fool.
For more information about the harmful effects of smoking in movies, visit www.tobaccofreewny.com or contact Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties.