The One Thing Parents Wish Movies Had Less Of

... and why you're right to be concerned.


Scientific research has shown that there is a direct relationship between children viewing  smoking in movies and the number of youth who start smoking. Don’t believe it?

Movies influence kids and teenagers; that’s a given. Still not convinced? Then explain to me why an entire generation of teenage girls dressed like an army of real estate agents for the last half of the 90s. Here’s exactly why, courtesy of the 1995 film Clueless:

And here’s why we all wore pink to our proms, and how the term “friend zone” entered the zeitgeist: (Thank you, Pretty in Pink.)

Movies are also why our kids act similarly; my son dressed as Spiderman for almost three straight years, and only stopped when the costume turned to literal threads. From age 4 until 7, he practically lived in that suit and I am not being hyperbolic. He wore it to bed, in the pool, to the family gatherings, and even over top of his snowsuits when the weather turned cold. Luckily, all of his grandparents survived this phase, or I fully expect they’d have had a web-slinging crime fighter at their funeral.

Our family loves the movies and whether that means seeing a splashy new release in a theatre setting or a low-key movie night in the living room, we’re no different from tens of thousands of other Canadian families. And all movies leave their mark, for better or for worse: through movies, kids sometimes gain interest in a new skill or hobby or clothing style. However, there are occasions where the opposite happens and less than stellar habits get latched onto or picked up – especially by impressionable children (Who here doesn’t have a story or two about an interesting “new word” the toddler accidently overheard on a movie when they were supposed to be sleeping?).

When it comes to things like smoking, parents need to be aware of exactly how strong that message is and the news isn’t great on this one. The more our kids see smoking onscreen in movies, the higher the likelihood they try – and keep – smoking themselves. Research shows that 185,000 kids under the age of 17 -  in Ontario alone! – will start smoking due in part to their exposure to onscreen smoking in movies. All smoking is unnecessary and even more so in movies rated for kids and youth . The current movie rating system does not consider tobacco-use when deciding on a rating; therefore most movies with smoking are rated acceptable for youth because it’s not something they’ve had to consider.  But when 37% of all young smokers in Ontario can have their smoking habit linked to smoking they’ve seen portrayed in the movies, we have to do something. And now you can: Sign the #SmokeFreeMovies petition today.

This petition supports a change in the current rating system used for movies, and calls for all movies which contain tobacco or tobacco products to be rated 18A. By signing the petition, we hope that our collective power will cause movie producers to consider non-smoking movies all-together.



We’ve long known that smoking does not equate to coolness. Now it’s time to make the movie industry understand this as well. When 86% of the movies studied contained smoking and tobacco use were rated at a level suitable for kids and teens (which they do) it’s time to sign. That time is now, before even one more kid starts a potentially lifelong and dangerous habit. Visit to view, sign, and share the petition.

A pint-sized Spiderman gets winks, nods, and smiles from the public, and an entire high school gym dressed like Andy and Ducky from Pretty in Pink on prom night makes for some funny and nostalgic yearbook memories. A smoking habit won’t do the same for your kids and offers only negatives – but it’s within your power to help stop.