Decision to ban smoking from screen ill-conceived

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Parents can now breathe a cleaner sigh of relief.

On May 10, 2007, the Motion Picture Association of America decided that all smoking and depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context shall be considered during their film rating process, right alongside the already considered factors of parental concerns such as sex, violence and adult language.

Medically speaking, smoking is bad and therefore any exposure children may have to smoking or situations portraying smoking can equally be considered bad. Realistically speaking, though, the MPAA has got to be kidding. How does equating the puff of a Marlboro with the glimpse of a females bare breast not make smoking even more Kool?

Certainly we need a movie rating system, but this anachronistic decree, at a time when teen smoking and the depiction of smoking in film are both in decline, illustrates the importance of transparency something the MPAA and their National Association of Theater Owner partners do not believe in.

Yes, smoking is bad, but so too is forcing art to conform to a set of vague standards for the sake of theater and aftermarket distribution. The more general the rating, the more theaters and, later, DVDs can be sold. Shuffling our dirty vices into NC-17 or R ratings simply stifles positive discourse while drawing taboo-like attention.

Over time, mainstream values and ideals have been subverted by the MPAAs pervasive tendency to consider sex, violence, language and now smoking as unmarketable sins a puritanical repression that has more to do with insider marketability than social sensibility.

Contact the writer at [email protected].

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