The Cycle
updated 5/31/2013 8:19:45 PM ET 2013-06-01T00:19:45

Since the tobacco industry was hit with a major settlement agreement in 1998 that banned product placement deals for TV and movies, there’s been an exponential decline of smoking in the media.

These days we embrace the booziness in The Hangover, but it’s been a long time since Lauren Bacall alluringly lit one up. Hollywood has been choosing booze over cigarettes.

A new study from JAMA Pediatrics shows that more characters in the movies indulge in on-screen drinking while the number of people smoking in films has taken a steep fall.

Since the tobacco industry was hit with a major settlement agreement in 1998 that banned product placement deals for TV and movies, there’s been an exponential decline of smoking in the media. While this is happening, there has also been an increase in characters drinking on screen in films rated for teens and below.

The clear, significant decline in smoking on the big screen after the 1998 settlement is one example of a government entity helping to shape what’s seen in American popular culture, and often, ultimately, in American life. A survey found that teen smoking hit an all time low last year, and a recent CDC study saw adult smoking on a slow decline.

A decade and a half after the settlement, groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, Smoke Free Movies, and their partners have launched ads calling for on-screen tobacco use to be restricted to R-rated movies.

“The attorneys general got tobacco to not only pay up for a lot of the damages, but also pull back from this,” The Cycle host Ari Melber said Friday on the effect of the 1998 settlement. “They knew, they didn’t need a study. They already knew this was how to get people smoking.”

Cycle host Touré added, “I’m happy to see Hollywood and TV stop being used as a proxy for big tobacco and allowing ads to sort of infiltrate into the television shows and movies. It used to be that to be cool in a movie you had to smoke, and we had to get away from that.”

Watch The Cycle’s full discussion on drinks, cigarettes, the media, and how the government plays into popular culture in the player above.

Video: What drinking, smoking on-camera means for off-camera life

  1. Closed captioning of: What drinking, smoking on-camera means for off-camera life

    >> you don't even know what they did. she asked me the whole thing, and i didn't even do -- what --

    >> i'm like an elephant, okay? if i walk into a room, it's, like, okay, he's in there. [ speaking foreign language ]

    >> tv proving that these days, it's always happy hour somewhere. as you can see and as we all know, there's lots and lots of drinking on tv and in movies these days. no news flash there. what's interesting is what's happening on screen compared to smoking. check out the charts from a new jama pediatric study, in the year since the tobacco history took a heat with the master settlement, that ban the the product placement , there's been a decline in smoking, and meantime, an increase for boozing in fill s rated for teens and below. of course, we have to backspin on this. you know what, the cultural shifts make a difference. there's a lot of studies that show putting gay people on television shows like "will & grace" like "ellen" to help change the way americans saw gay people . so viewership makes a difference, and i'm happy to see tv and movies to stop being a proxy for smoking, and it used to be that to be cool in a movie, you had to smoke, right? and we had to get away from that. and big tobacco was fully complicit, to say, hey, smoke in your movies, philip morris paid for larks to be smoked. rjr paid sean connery $10,000 for winston and campbells to smoke in "never say never again." so getting away from that is good for america.

    >> yeah, when you see cultural influence is huge. in looking at the segment, i looked at a study from 2006 that showed proof/correlation between watching a movie with alcohol in it and kids being more likely when they grew up to drink alcohol. and that was even controlling for other factors like whether their friends drank, which obviously is an impact. so you have that cultural predicate. you see it here as .37, the correlation on the chart. this is a real documented thing. which makes intuitive sense. if you see something enough, if it's cool, like, what's happening, then maybe you want to do it. the settlement you mentioned, toure, was important, because the attorneys general got tobacco to not only pay up for the daniels but also pulled back from this, which they knew -- they didn't need a study, they knew how to get people smoking. it reminded me something of senator moynihan said, the central conservative truth, which is culture -- not politics -- determines the success of a society. and central liberal truth is culture can save it from itself. what we're seeing here when the government or attorneys general get involved and try to extract what they consider negative habits out of the culture is politics changing culture. i think it worked. but i also have really mixed feelings about it, because i don't want it micromanaged. i don't want the government telling eze he can't promote oe.

    >> i didn't think he would get in the segment, but he really did.

    >> he went there. and i agree with you about the government micromanaging -- are you just going to stall -- while i'm -- thanks, i appreciate that. anyway, i have mixed feelings about the government micromanaging it in that way. picking and choosing what things can be shown, what product placements can air. but one other idea that i actually got from morgan spurlock , he did the documentary, "wonderful presents the greatest movie" to raise awareness about the product placement . some of them are blatant. some you don't realize. one idea is to have the transparency in product placement . if you are a parent who doesn't particularly want their kid watching a lot of drinking in the movies, underage or otherwise, there would be -- you would be able to access that information of what companies have paid to have their products placed in the movie. and in another vein, from are also certain companies that maybe they have practices you don't support. so you don't want to watch a movie that is promoting those companies, also. so i think full transparency in that regard would be a good idea.

    >> yeah, i'm with you guys. i don't love the idea of government tweaking culture. because that all depends on the kind of government that you like at the time.

    >> right.

    >> who's in charge of that. i don't think that's a good idea. however, i don't get to make the choice of how powerful culture is. it's very, very powerful. it's powerful politically and otherwise. and so, for that reason, i think we have to make that acknowledgement, and then ask more of it. and what i always think about when it comes to this -- in addition to smoking and drinking and driving , for example -- is teen pregnancy . and i feel like we've really thrown in the towel on teen pregnancy in many ways. we've said, oh, they're going to do it, so let's give them birth control at age 12 and the morning-after pill. i don't think that's the way to go. if we could get hollywood and culture to shame teen pregnancy the way it shamed teen smoking and make it less cool to get pregnant, instead of giving pregnant teens a television show show, i think that might go a long way and actually change the culture. i'm not ready to give up on that yet. i still think there's good work to do there.

    >> i think the government makes cultural micro decisions all the time. one of the things you see is seat belts . you used to not see. now, everybody gets in the car, and they throw on the seat belt in the television, movie business.

    >> yeah, with the nudging, the government will always have some government impact.

    >>> up next, we talked on thursday about the increasing number of female bread winners, but there's another trend creeping across america. the diy movement. women and some men staying at home to knit, bake, and pickle. how can both be


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