You can add watching movies to the list of activities - like smoking, passive smoking, and bungee jumping - that can kill you. According to the American Legacy Foundation, thousands of people are killed each year from ... you guessed it ... watching movies.
A July 21 UPI article by Meghan O'Connell quotes the head of Legacy as stating that depictions of smoking in the movies are a significant killer. The article was discussing an initiative by a number of anti-smoking groups to try to get smoking out of movies seen by large numbers of children via requiring an R-rating for any movie that depicts smoking (other than in a historical context):
"Cheryl Healton, president of the American Legacy Foundation, said that this is not censorship because eliminating tobacco imagery in films would save lives. 'These depictions actually kill people,' she said."
Other anti-smoking researcher/advocates were not quite as alarming, but still portrayed smoking in movies as being one of the most important public health problems of our time.
"'There's nothing else, no other single thing, that can be done to reduce youth smoking in the United States and the world than getting smoking out of movies,' said Stan Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California and founder of Smoke Free Movies. ... Glantz said that prohibiting smoking imagery in movies rated PG-13 and under, except when it would lead to historical inaccuracy or when negative health effects are clearly shown, could easily be accomplished and would eliminate an estimated 120,000 tobacco-related deaths each year."
The Rest of the Story
This is getting a little ridiculous. First, we find out that 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can cause us to immediately develop hardening of the arteries and keel over from a heart attack. Now, we find out that simply watching someone smoking in a movie can be fatal.
I guess this explains why it happens so often that when I'm in a theater watching a movie and a character lights up, the guy next to me keels over in his seat and drops dead.
Perhaps what I don't understand is why you would just want to require an R-rating for a movie that is going to kill people. Wouldn't you want to simply ban smoking in the movies? After all, large numbers of our nation's children do, and will continue to, watch R-rated movies. How can we possibly allow this hazard, knowing that the depiction of smoking in these movies is going to result in the deaths of many of these kids, 120,000 of them a year to be exact?
Truly, you can't be serious. You can't tell me that smoking in movies is single-handedly responsible for 120,000 deaths per year. You can't tell me that if we simply banned all movies, all of the sudden, 120,000 fewer people would die each year (or even 40 years later, if you want to allow for the lag time it takes before smoking kills people).
While we're at it, I guess that depicting alcohol abuse in movies also is a killer. And what about the portrayal of reckless or dangerous driving, sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, or sun exposure? Aren't these movies also killing people?
How much longer do we think the public is going to take us seriously if we claim that the simple depiction of smoking in movies kills people? Are people not going to simply start dismissing our ridiculous and exaggerated health claims?
Since exposure to secondhand smoke is apparently much worse than active smoking (it takes only 30 minutes of exposure to cause heart disease, as opposed to about 20 years for active smoking), I shudder to think how deadly it is to watch a movie that depicts passive smoking. They'd have to supply a gurney with each container of popcorn.