Hollywood's love affair with smoking still going strong
Critics say young viewers paying the price
August 26, 1997
Web posted at: 5:33 a.m. EDT (0933 GMT)
From Correspondent Sherri Sylvester
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- It's a habit that even Hollywood can't
kick. Almost every actor and actress has been seen lighting
up in the movies.
Worried about the continued popularity of smoking, the
American Lung Association recently asked a group of teens to
tally up the numbers by watching some 133 recent features.
The results were astounding.
"Of 133 movies, they saw tobacco in some way in 77 percent of
the movies," says Andrew Weisser of the ALA.
Washington believes that's sending the wrong signals to young
viewers. Even Hillary Clinton has been critical of tobacco
use in one of the summer's hottest hits, "My Best Friend's
Actress Julia Roberts is not alone in her penchant for chain
smoking. The aliens of "Men In Black" pack Marlboros and the
character Hades in "Hercules" smokes, as do actors in "G.I.
Jane," "Cop Land" and "Face/Off."
"They really should be ashamed of themselves. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Julia Roberts, Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith,
making smoking look really cool. Teens look at our movie
stars and they model themselves after them," says anti-
smoking activist Patrick Reynolds.
Responsible for actions?
Some actors refuse to take the heat.
"I can't take moral responsibility when it comes to the
character," says Matt Dillon. "If the character would, I
"If individuals are so gullible that if they see a celebrity
smoking that they think that's cool, that's a problem with
the individual. That's a problem with the way society reveres
celebrities and puts them on an unwanted pedestal," adds
Glenn Kenny, senior editor of Premiere magazine.
Not to be left out, Alicia Silverstone puffs on camera in her
new movie, "Excess Baggage." Her director says art is
imitating life, not the other way around.
"There's a lot of anger and a lot of frustration and anxiety
towards authority, towards parents, towards relationships,
and part of her is self-destructive, so her smoking and
drinking are just natural ways of expressing herself,"
director Marco Bramilla says of Silverstone's angst-ridden
Cigarettes also seem the prop of choice for John Travolta,
who's seen smoking on screen in several films.
"We need to tell our young people, 'Hey, smoking kills.' It
is as addicting as heroin, and movie actors who smoke are
being irresponsible," Reynolds argues.
'A bad example'
There are movie stars who agree.
"Unfortunately, it's becoming romantic in films again," says
"It gives you cancer; it kills you," adds Isabella
"I have played characters who smoke, and I don't want to
consciously do it again," says actor Gabriel Byrne. "It's a
Movie studios insist they don't accept product placement
money for cigarettes. But the Clinton administration is
concerned about the proliferation of the product. Al Gore
meets with movie-makers on the issue next month.
Meanwhile, 3,000 kids a day are lighting up for the first