Why is Hollywood Suddenly Smoking?

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)


National Lung Health Education Program
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Why Is Hollywood Suddenly Smoking?

August 1996
PEP Pioneers
Second Wind
Torrance, California

Dear Friends;

It is a sad fact that approximately 28% of men and about 25% of women continue to smoke.  Smoking is declining slowly in men but rising in women.  On average, only slightly more than one quarter of our population regularly consume tobacco in any form, most commonly cigarettes.  Nearly three-quarters have either never embraced this lethal habit or have quit for health or other personal reasons.

Why, then, do so many movies show smoking scenes?  Where do the cigarettes come from? Who pays for them?  Today you see cigarettes in both pleasant and acrimonious scenes, in restaurants, before, during and after romantic scenes, for no apparent reason at all, with cigarettes popping out of someone’s pocket, or conveniently lying on a table in almost any movie scene.  The message portrayed, of course, continues to be to say that smoking is safe, glamorous, and healthy.  Both the tobacco industry and the public alike know that this image is incorrect.  In fact, it is a fraudulent message designed to continue to seduce people into tobacco use, resulting in addiction.  Today more people under the age of twenty smoke, compared with those over twenty.

The tobacco giants are incredibly clever in the way they continue to promote and protect their product.  Their payoff to politicians are atrocious.  I am sorry to say that today Republicans are taking more tobacco money then even the Democrats.  The reverse used to be true.  Republican Presidential Candidate Robert Dole’s statement downplaying the risk of addiction is just one more example of a public figure playing into the hands of tobacco companies for public and political gain.  This type of intellectual dishonesty should be recognized to the disgust of all.

I personally do not propose banning tobacco for a variety of reasons.  However, I do believe that the media and public officials owe viewers and constituents alike the respect of intellectual honesty.

Why is Hollywood suddenly smoking?  It’s not for the flavor, it’s for the money.

I’ll be in touch next month.

     Sincerely yours,

    Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
9 April 2002