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Descriptive cross-sectional survey of tobacco and cannabis restrictions on state and local film incentives in the USA


Background Reducing tobacco depictions in media has significant health benefits because tobacco placements in films normalise tobacco use and are linked to youth initiation. Cannabis depictions may have similar effects. Placing restrictions on film incentives has been suggested; however, it remains an unexplored strategy for reducing tobacco depictions. We investigated whether states and localities that offer film incentives have established funding restrictions to deter tobacco or cannabis depictions.

Methods We conducted a descriptive cross-sectional survey of official state and local government websites in the USA that listed film incentives. We coded policy level (ie, state, local), incentive type (ie, tax credit, rebate), incentive amounts, programme qualifiers and presence and characteristics of tobacco and cannabis restrictions.

Results Quantifiable tax incentives at the state level offered over $1.6 billion to producers. Among 50 US states and Washington, DC, 39 provided film incentives: 4 restricted tobacco and 0 restricted cannabis. Among the 238 local film offices we identified, 24 offered incentives; 5 restricted tobacco and 1 restricted cannabis. All the incentive restrictions excluded tobacco or cannabis purchases from reimbursement; there were no penalties for tobacco or cannabis depictions.

Conclusions Film incentives are large financial commitments that may undermine public health since they allow depictions of tobacco and cannabis that contribute to initiation and use. Few states or localities limit film incentives related to tobacco or cannabis, and the existing restrictions are unlikely to deter depictions or product placement. Restrictions on incentives are an underused tool for deterring tobacco and cannabis depictions in film.

  • Public policy
  • Prevention
  • Media
  • Denormalization

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request made to the corresponding author.

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