Please base criticism on data and analysis, not hypotheticals

Stanton A Glantz, Professor,

Other Contributors:

October 25, 2011

Chapman speculates that basing our analysis on box office gross receipts while omitting what he describes as available video revenue data is problematic. However, Chapman does not actually present an analysis based on reliable data that demonstrates that including post-theatrical film receipts would reverse the conclusion drawn in our paper.

We used industry-reported "domestic" (Canada and United States) gross theatrical sales totals -- not including domestic or foreign ancillary revenues, such as DVD sales -- because these same data were used to determine what motion pictures were included in the sample of top-grossing films (ranking among the top ten films in gross sales in any week of their first-run, domestic theatrical release). In addition, evidence suggests that domestic theatrical gross is positively correlated with both DVD sales and foreign box office (1,2), so it is very unlikely that adding estimated domestic video revenue to reported domestic theatrical box office gross would reverse our results, as Chapman speculates.

Chapman also appears to have misunderstood the paper (3) he cited as evidence that youth have widespread access to R-rated movies. The paper in question shows that the median viewership rate for an R-rated movie is only about 17% for adolescents aged 10-14. Thus, even though R-rated films are smokier on average than youth-rated (G/PG/PG-13) films, youth-rated films deliver the majority of exposure to onscreen smoking.

Chapman is "perplexed" about why the R rating would reduce youth exposure to smoking in movies. Here is why the CDC, WHO and a wide range of public health organizations have endorsed the R rating for on-screen smoking:

1. Motion pictures are products mostly made by multinational corporations to sell to a pre-determined market.

2. Obtaining the desired rating for a film is an integral part of its marketing plan, made before production begins.

3. To obtain the rating desired for marketing purposes, film content is calibrated in light of the factors that the MPAA uses in assigning ratings: violence, sex, illegal drugs, and language. 4. If smoking triggered an R rating, studios would integrate this fact into production plans and see that smoking was left out of films designed for general and youth markets.

5. As a result, smoking would not appear in future G, PG, and, most important, PG-13 movies.

6. Youth receive almost 60% of their exposure to onscreen smoking from youth rated films.

7. If studios adapt to the R rating for smoking as expected, there will be a proportionate reduction in the dose of smoking delivered to youth in films.

8. Because of the dose-response relationship between exposure to smoking in movies and adolescent (and young adult) smoking, there will be less adolescent smoking.

Note that this logic has nothing to do with whether or not youth see R-rated films.

Chapman has repeatedly denigrated the R rating for smoking as a way to reduce the substantial impact that smoking in movies has on youth smoking behavior. We respectfully suggest that in the future he:

1. Base his criticisms on actual data and analysis, rather than raising hypothetical problems and presenting them as if they had been demonstrated to be real.

2. Criticise the proposal based on the actual behavior of the motion picture industry, not on whether or not youth see some R-rated films.

Stanton A. Glantz Jonathan R. Polansky


(1) Elberse A and Oberholzer-Gee F (2007) Superstars and underdogs: An examination of the long-tail phenomenon in video sales. Harvard Business School Working Paper Series, No. 07-015. Accessed at on 18 October 2011.

(2) World Health Organization. Smoke-free movies: From evidence to action (second edition). Box 2: Tobacco images in films from the United States have worldwide impact. Geneva, 2011. Accessed at on 19 October 2011.

(3) Sargent JD, Tanski SE, Gibson J. Exposure to movie smoking among US adolescents aged 10 to 14 years: a population estimate. Pediatrics. 2007 May;119(5):e1167-76.

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

Conflict of Interest

None declared