WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- A coalition of health organizations in the United States demanded Tuesday that all films that include depictions of smoking or tobacco should receive an "R" rating, meaning that children under 17 should be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
A total of 17 public health and medical groups signed a letter to film industry leaders in response to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed that progress in reducing tobacco imagery in PG-13 movies stalled after 2010.
PG-13 movies are those containing some material that may be inappropriate for children under 13.
The letter demanded that the film industry meet a June 1, 2018, deadline to end its practice of using tobacco depictions in youth-rated movies because research has shown that any picture with tobacco imagery has a direct impact on children who go on to smoke.
The updated R rating guidelines would apply to all movies with smoking except those that "exclusively portray actual people who used tobacco (as in documentaries or biographical dramas) or that depict the serious health consequences of tobacco use," the letter said.
"As physicians and advocates, we are speaking with a unified voice: filmmakers must stop enabling the tobacco industry to target our children," Fernando Stein, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a statement.
"The evidence is clear that when children see movie characters smoking, they are more likely to smoke. Ninety percent of smokers start smoking in their teen years, and many of them will battle a tobacco addiction that will eventually kill them. By rating movies appropriately, filmmakers can help protect the next generation from tobacco-related disease and death."
According to the U.S. CDC, exposure to on-screen smoking will recruit more than six million U.S. children to smoke, of whom two million will die prematurely from tobacco-induced cancer, heart disease, lung disease or stroke.
By voluntarily implementing policies that require R ratings for smoking, the film industry can avert one million tobacco deaths among today's children, the U.S. CDC estimated.
In a 2014 report, the U.S. Surgeon General projected that the magnitude of the effect of an R rating for smoking would be similar to increasing the price of cigarettes from 6.00 to 7.50 U.S. dollars per pack.
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., responsible for nearly half a million adult deaths annually.
It was signed by medical organizations that represent more than 630,000 doctors, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and a number of other related organizations.