Tuesday 15 March 2011

Laughing at you, not with you, Stan

One of the joys of America's SmokeFree Movies campaign is that it brings frothing-at-the-mouth anti-smoking mentalism under the noses of people who otherwise wouldn't pay attention. It's a pleasure to watch the jaws of people who are largely apathetic about smoking bans drop as they learn that there are people in the world who genuinely seem to believe that the depiction of smoking in films kills 100,000 Americans every year.

They also believe that no fewer than 390,000 American "kids" start smoking every year because of the smoking they see on screen, and they've got the studies to prove it. Admittedly, these studies are nearly all written by the guy who runs SmokeFree Movies, Stanton Glantz, who also founded Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, but I'm sure he would never let his personal obsession lead his conclusions.

While the SmokeFree Movies claims are not inherently more ludicrous than anything else that comes out of Glantz's mouth, they are perhaps more obviously ludicrous to the casual observer. His latest pearl of wisdom is that: "A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie". The movie in question is Johnny Depp's Rango. I haven't seen this film and probably never will, but according to a shocked spokeswoman for Breathe California, smoking is depicted many times:

Because there are so many scenes in which characters smoke, she said, her group might not be able to get a definitive count until Rango comes out on DVD.

It would, of course, be premature to say exactly how many "kids are going to start smoking because of this movie" until this crucial piece of scientific research has been carried out. Let's pray that the carnage is not as bad as first feared.

Jacob Sullum has written about this at Reason and the National Review has reported it with the suitably sarcastic headline 'Tobacco study suggests smoking on film may kill the audience':

The anti-smoking movement has undoubtedly been of great benefit to the health of Quebecers. The province, long derided as Canada’s ashtray, saw its smoking rate drop to 22.5% in 2009 from more than 30% in 1998. But when it has come to sitting in front of movies with a stopwatch, noting whether a smoking character conveys sexiness, rebellion or some other veiled message, you are well on your way to earning your reputation as a killjoy.

But best of all is Filmdrunk, who must have missed Glantz's chest-pounding about Avatar last year, because the great man has only just come onto his radar.

Let me be very clear about something: Stanton Glantz is not a real person. He can’t be. An anti-smoking advocate named Stanton Glantz who lives in San Francisco and makes conclusory doomsday statements like “A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie” sounds like something even Michael Bay would dismiss as being too on-the -nose. No, I’ll not be fooled by this.

Additionally, and I don’t even know if this is possible, but I’m picturing him with two sole patches.

On Feb. 23, Smoke Free Movies, a project of Glantz’s, ran a full-page ad in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter that slammed the smoking in Rango. “How many studio execs did it take to OK smoking in a ‘PG’ movie?” the ad asked.

Said Glantz, “If we had known it’s as bad as it is, this ad would have been even tougher.”

I love that he thought the original ad was tough in the least. I just picture him sitting around saying, “Yes, this smugly worded question will surely cut through these executives like a samurai sword."

Nevertheless, Rango has renewed the call by Glantz and other anti-smoking advocates for the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, to rate any film that shows smoking as “R.”

(*spins directly off planet*)

Look, I don’t want kids smoking any more than the next guy (provided the next guy isn’t Joe Camel). But these morons who take it upon themselves to try to eradicate tobacco use from the planet one city ordinance and petition at a time need to be stopped. I’m sorry if your enjoyment of the park is lessened because Johnny Motorcycle lit up a Marlboro Light and the smell of smoke just drives you batty. But tough sh*t. I don’t like country music, but I’m not going to go out and picket every Keith Urban concert. As I said up top, I can understand banning smoking in tight, confined spaces like bars or airplanes for the health of consumers and employees. But when your argument devolves into “ALL MOVIES WITH SMOKING SHOULD BE RATED-R REGARDLESS OF CONTEXT,” then you’re no longer doing a service to your cause.

And you’re an asshole.

And I hate you.

The comments don't suggest that Glantz is getting a lot of support from the movie-going public either.


Curmudgeon said...

Let's slash the murder rate by stopping showing murders in films - you know it makes sense.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Another great quote in the Filmdrunk article: "Well, this is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. Counting up every instance of smoking in every film ever made and comparing them to each other? I’m sure as Kori Titus lays on her deathbed (with her pristine lungs intact), she will turn to her children, and say with her dying words, “My only regret is that I didn’t count more instances of smoking in popular culture.”"


George Speller said...

"Stanton Glantz is not a real person"

Mr A said...

Do I get the feeling that the antis have become so brazen in their Righteousness and their expectations of influence, that they are actually starting to piss a hell of a lot of people off? Not just those of us in the know, but Johnny Public who has maybe heard of ASH but is only just now saying, "Thay want what!? Who the Hell ARE these arseholes!?"

I've seen a lot of anti-Tobacco Control comments recently, and in really unexpected places too like the Guardian and BBC Comments pages and forums.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I think that if comments have web links, the comments get cancelled. Could you please check your posting settings.

Anonymous said...

Smoke Free Movies is a project of Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Professor Glantz is co-author of The Cigarette Papers and Tobacco War and director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. This project is supported by grants from the American Legacy Foundation, the Arimathea Fund of the Tides Foundation, and other donors. Earlier support came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.
smokefreemovie [dot] ucsf [dot] edu/about [dot] html

Anonymous said...

Missed in the Glantzian onslaught is that banning/re-classification of smoking in movies is a World Health Organization directive. Glantz has been given the task of popularizing the idea.
WHO calls for enforceable policies to restrict smoking in movies
www [dot] int/tobacco/smoke_free_movies/en/

The WHO also promotes employment discrimination against smokers. It adopted a “no smoker employment policy” (leading by example) in the mid-2000s.

Christopher Snowdon said...


The spam filter won't allowed anonymous comments with web-links. Try putting a username in and it should work.

Anonymous said...

"I’m sorry if your enjoyment of the park is lessened because Johnny Motorcycle lit up a Marlboro Light and the smell of smoke just drives you batty."

This simply isn't true. Stanton Glantz has direct influence over San Francisco City/County government using Mitch Katz, City Health Director, with whom he shares the same office at UCSF, as the gopher-boy to take Stanton's demands and have them made into law in San Francisco.

Thus, outdoor smoking in the parks - is banned. Outdoor smoking on city sidewalks - is banned.

So there is no tobacco aroma going to drift past Glantz's precious little nose, not in San Francisco, nor in Marin County to the north, which is also outdoor smoke banned.

It helps to have your office-mate be City Health Director, how convenient that appointment by billionaire glitter-boy Mayor Newsom that decision turned out to be.