California Lawsuit Seeks To Force Movie Studios To Give Films Showing Smoking An “R” Rating

gilda-movie-poster-1946-1020142589There is a curious class action lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco that seeks an order to force movie studios to use a minimum of an R rating for movies depicting the smoking of tobacco. The lawsuit filed by Timothy Forsyth and others strikes me as entirely meritless. The lawsuit cites various movies like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as warranting an R rating. Not all that gruesome decapitations and gouging mind you. It is the fact that characters like Gandalf smoke.

Indeed, as if to taunt anti-smokers Gandalf actually plays tricks with smoke:

The complaint argues that “From 2003 when the defendants were notified that exposure to tobacco imagery in films causes children and adolescents to smoke, through 2015, youth-rated movies recruited approximately 4.6 million adolescents in the United States to smoke, of which approximately 1.5 million are expected to die from tobacco-induced diseases in years to come. And, at current rates, if defendants continue their current practice of certifying and rating films with tobacco imagery as suitable and appropriate for children and adolescents under the age of seventeen unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, defendants’ conduct will cause an additional 3.2 million American children alive today to smoke, and one million of those children to die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and emphysema.”

490px-James_Dean-cigarette-fullThat however does not mean that a studio can be ordered to treat smoking like full frontal nudity. Yet the filing by Jeffrey Keller at Keller Grover insists that a court should order an injunction and issue a declaratory judgment that the ratings system “is negligent, false and misleading and a breach of defendants’ fiduciary and statutory duties.” He also seeks damages for consumers who bought tickets to movies that were negligently rated, and disgorgement of gains from the alleged inaccurate ratings.

imagesIt is more likely that the litigants will get a Rule 11 sanction for a frivolous lawsuit than disgorgement of gains. The studios have artistic and free speech rights as well as commercial interests that should overwhelm these claims. Indeed, the implications of the lawsuit could produce a slippery slope as a host of things shown in films like the Hobbit are bad for you, including being dismembered, burned, tortured, and otherwise savagely treated (not to mention all of that red meat and alcohol consumed by the dwarfs). Indeed, every Western and gangster movie ever done would have to be treated as a R rating because of character smoking. The point is that the movie ratings are not vehicles for condemnation of unhealthy living choices, including products like tobacco which remain legal. There are a variety of things that teenagers may witness that are illegal for their age group from alcohol to sex to smoking. There may also be images of illegal drug use. To suggest that cigarettes must be deemed sufficient to trigger an increase to the R rating seems rather . . . well . . . meritless.

The suit was assigned on Monday to U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg.


Here is the complaint: Hollywood lawsuit

31 thoughts on “California Lawsuit Seeks To Force Movie Studios To Give Films Showing Smoking An “R” Rating”

  1. @LawyerAspinWall

    Hmmm, then maybe Hollywood needs to cut out all the gay male sex stuff, because the disease rate is about the same for smoking and sodomy. Passive Sodomites have about a 20%+ chance of getting HIV. That is about the same rate as smokers who get lung cancer, which IIRC, was about 18%.

    Yet, Hollywood glamorizes gay sex, and hardly ever says a word about HIV/AIDS. Oh well, like somebody else said, there are sooo many stupid people in the world!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. Any/all attempts to convince people, particularly young people, not to smoke tobacco are valid and warranted. The direct health-care costs for people who smoke is no longer debatable. The problem with movie smoking is it glamorizes a foul habit which will kill or worse. I’m for it. I want to know what’s going to be seen in the films my loved ones watch. I am not interested in most of them, but I sure want a legitimate rating so I can decide what should be skipped, and movies which advance tobacco consumption should be skipped.

  3. It worked before, so why not do it again? The multi-billion dollar suit against Big Tobacco not only got the plaintiffs huge money but also a binding contractual agreement for Big Tobacco NOT to present a cartoon camel character, Joe Camel, to the public. They knew that no federal judge would ever make such a ruling, or that it would be overturned on appeal. So what? Believe me, this will NEVER get to trial because the studios will capitulate in some way. The bottom line will always be money. The first amendment doesn’t have a chance.

    1. Michael Scott – No film HAS to be rated. The rating system is voluntary. However, unrated films are not advertised in newspapers of general circulation. The rating is up to the rating board, not the studios.

    2. As long as there are Attorneys, there will always be victims willing to try to blame their poor life style decisions on somebody else. And as long as there are ignorant people, there will always be others willing to sell them something.

      When are we going to come to the logical conclusion that you cannot create a law(s) to help the poor or protect people from being stupid. If this were so, would those laws not already have been enacted. As an example, if raising the minimum age could reduce poverty, would not poverty have already been eliminated throughout the world.

      The rating system should be a self regulated system with consumers controlling the outcome by their participation or not. Better consumer groups would surely help. If this were actually a big problem like the GMO issue, consumer groups would have already been formed.

  4. It is ironic how many in Hollywood are smokers. Liberals are stupid and self destructive. Obama is a smoker.

  5. The movies with smokers should be rated DS. As in Dumb Smoker. But the other folks might say that the two words taken together are unnecessary. A smoker is by definition: dumb. Went in dumb, come out dumb too, smoking round Atlanta in alligator shoes. What did Rita Hayworth die of? Cancer? Gonna look it up.

  6. What is a Twitter?
    I am in Fourth Grade. We do not taunt. It is a Catholic school and if we taunt then Sister hits ya with a ruler. Glory Glory Halleluya.

      1. The bet should be higher if you don’t. Lol.

        Individual rights are important because of obvious reasons. The problem is that many are not willing to address the problems created by society other then by wanting to institute various social policies. In society there are generally more than one way to skin a cat but sometimes it is much harder to do this then by social policy.

        However, malum prohibitum legislation is a horrible method because of the contraindications/negative ramifications that all social policies create. Free market solutions are always preferential to statist solutions because of the contraindications. However, the ruling oligarchs prey on the middle class/majority using social policies memes, thus why we have so many of them. Add those that benefit from it, to those who don’t understand it, is how we got into this mess in the first place and have for all intent and purposes fully abrogated our Constitution.

  7. Free speech means freedom to see. I would like to see more nude women on television. I do not go to movie theatres– too many smokers in the lobby. The censorship of nudity is plain stupid. We are talking about humans here not nude dogs.

  8. California is a bankrupt blue state. It’s movie industry is flat.

    Employment in L.A. County’s signature motion picture and sound recording industry was essentially flat in 2015.
    Location movie shoots in L.A. County tumbled 4.5 percent in 2015.
    New temporary tax-credits helped increase TV projects there, but overall production in the L.A. region up just 1.5 percent from 2014.
    In 2014, more featured films were made in Louisiana than California or New York, according to the New Orleans Film Commission, calling the region “Hollywood South”.

    So the courts are set to make yet another reason to avoid making movies in California.

  9. Mr. Forsythe is either a busybody or a shill for the plaintiff’s bar.

    In either case, he sounds like a person to avoid.

  10. First the film industry needs to stop glorifying violence. Then stop glorifying alcohol. Smoking is stupid but not as stupid as the other two.

  11. Smoking is a dangerous addiction but people do smoke. I’m getting very very tired of the urge to censor and or “warn” about some actions but ignore excessive and gratuitous violence shown not only in movies but in everyday television. Censorship is also a dangerous addiction. It is eating away at our ability to communicate. On balance I think new addiction to censorship is more dangerous to democracy than smoking.

  12. It is like a one child policy in China– to many folks on planet Earth. So let the dumb ones commit early suicide and the rest of us can live on in peace. Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite used to get paid by the tobacco sponsors to not only yak the Camel Ad on the screen while they spread the news, but to smoke on screen. Of course millions of kids took up the habit because of Ed and Walter. Walter never mentioned it in his autobiography proudly written in late life.

    If I had a daughter I would advise her not to smoke because it will limit the pool of prospective husbands. Many men want no part of a woman with stink on clothes and Hey Zeus you would never French kiss a smoker and not puke.

    I personally turn off movies with smokers going about their business. Lauren Bacall looks gross.
    There is a cathouse in Vegas where they only hire non smoking women. It is rated “Non S”.

    As to this lawsuit, it will probably fail. As to the smokers on the blog here, your comments reveal your habits. Kind of like the nuns in the nunnery who wear habits and reveal nothing. Mister Habit is here with the ….

    1. Elmer Fudd – does my comment reveal that I smoke or don’t smoke?

  13. hskiprob Are you qualified to determine what does and what does not hurt me? I doubt that very much.

  14. The puritans still haven’t figured out that it is not vice that is corrupting our society, it is some of the malum prohibitum legislation and the usurpation of individual rights that they support. Fascism to the right. Somebody always wanting to tell you how to act and spend your money, even when you are not hurting anybody else. If we cannot trust our neighbors to do the right things, how can we trust such political scumbags like Trump and Clinton. It is not homosexuality that is harming our society, it is all the redistribution of wealth schemes.

  15. The MPAA is a voluntary group that rates the film. Studios are aware that the rating of the film may affect the takings at the box office so they will often recut an R to get a PG-13. An R theoretically keeps teens from seeing the movie, but a check is Arizona showed that only one chain actually checked IDs.

  16. I believe this theater bumper would throw a monkey wrench into the plaintiff’s thought process.

  17. Oh, and by the way, Gilda is a really great film, even if it does have a hidden homosexual motif running through it. The German guy is like as “weird” as a three dollar bill, if you know what I mean. And Glenn Ford was probably doing him. Which is why they all smoked so much in the film. It was all the sex.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  18. Why not just ask for an “S” rating for “Smoking”? And a “D” rating for drug use? And an “F” rating for sugar eating? And an “H” rating for homo sex? I mean I can think of all kinds of things like the above that I don’t want to watch.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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