Friday, November 18, 2005

Don't DVDs already have enough extraneous crap on them?

State attorneys general want smoking warning on DVDs

LOS ANGELES - Kids, don't try this at home.

With a new study showing that exposure to on-screen smoking prompts many American adolescents to light up, state prosecutors from across the country want Hollywood to slap anti-smoking admonitions on all new DVDs.

Attorneys general from 32 states signed a letter sent this week to 10 movie studios asking executives to add anti-smoking public service announcements to all home-viewing releases that depict smoking.

"We're urging (studios) to do more," said Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., author of the letter.

"The industry's leaders are responsible Americans," he said, "and I'm sure they're just as concerned about the health of their children as the doctors are."

The attorneys general suggest that studios include a public service announcement with all upcoming DVDs. A spot has already been developed by several organizations for theatrical use beginning in January.

Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America. said studios will consider the request individually.

"There's no collective decision at this point," she said, pointing out that MPAA ratings already indicate whether a movie depicts underage smoking.

Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School concluded that exposure to smoking in movies is a "primary risk factor" in determining whether kids will take up the habit.

The study, released Nov. 7, looked at 6,522 adolescents and found that 38 of every 100 who tried smoking did so because of their exposure to smoking in movies.

The more on-screen smoking that kids see, the more likely they are to light up, the study found, regardless of where they live or whether their parents or peers smoke.

"No child is immune to the influence of smoking in movies," study author Dr. James Sargent said in a statement....
Okay, so there's a correlation. However, there is one blatantly obvious question that nobody seems to be asking here: Do these "public service" announcements actually do any good? Young people know full well when they are being manipulated. There seems to be an assumption here that, just because young people appear to be influenced by behaviors they see on a DVD, that they will also be influenced by some preachy faux-cool PSA that they're forced to watch at the beginning of the disk (I'd bet money that most of the studios who decide to go ahead with this will make the announcements unskippable, as if that will make them more compelling--kind of like those unskippable bold-faced FBI copyright warnings that have done absolutely no good in cutting down on piracy). Of course, what is also being forgetten is that a great many people who watch these discs are adults who don't smoke and who don't give a flying fuck. Seriously, why should I care if a teenager does something stupid? Is it my problem? Hardly.

Perhaps a better solution would be to just slap an "R" rating on any movie that depicts smoking of any kind. Then the other part of that would be to actually get parents to use the parental lockout feature that the law requires to be included on every DVD player sold in the United States. Remember that? This is the feature that everyone whined and cried for back when Bill Clinton was President, and which everyone then proceeded to ignore, just so they could whine and cry again about those evil movie studios marketing R-rated movies to kids--which turned into Joe Lieberman's pet issue in the 2000 election. Probably the solution would be to have the lockout feature activated by default on any new DVD player. That way, people who did not want to use it would have to turn it off. That is a sacrifice with which I could easily live, and which is much preferable (for everyone) to having to watch some stupid-assed, condescending announcement at the beginning of every disc.

No, I think what is the real solution to this problem is to investigate the real reasons kids choose to smoke, and to do something about them. There isn't a single person in this country who isn't well aware that smoking is dangerous, and yet many people continue to choose to begin smoking. Why do they do that? Do these attorneys general seriously expect people to believe that kids make a conscious decision to start smoking just because they see it in a movie? Or is it more that the movie provides validation for a decision they were already considering? The key question there is, why were they even considering it in the first place?


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