Studios and tobacco brands

Smoking on screen causes young people to smoke whether the film displays a specific tobacco brand or not. For decades, however, tobacco companies have spent millions to associate their trademarks with Hollywood films and stars through cross-promotion campaigns and product placement.

Brand display persists today despite a 1998 legal agreement that bars US tobacco companies from paying to place their brands in entertainment accessible to kids. Multinational media companies and tobacco firms marketing US brands in other countries are not bound by the agreement. 

  • From 2002 through 2015, more than 40 percent of top-grossing films displaying actual tobacco brands were youth-rated in the US. An even higher percentage of films displaying tobacco brands brands are youth-rated in other countries.
  • Sony, Time Warner and Viacom (Paramount) led MPAA-member companies in tobacco brand display. Each company featured tobacco brands in more than one in ten of its youth-rated films with smoking and one in five of its R-rated films with smoking.
  • Independent film companies were somewhat less likely to show brands than the major studios yet, as a group, accounted for more than one-quarter (26%) of all top-grossing films featuring tobacco brands — a greater share than the top MPAA-member company, Time Warner (20%).
  • Of the brands shown being smoked by actors, 99 percent were posed with the film's star or co-stars. Uncredited extras smoke in films, but they don't pose with brands.
  • After recent mergers and brand shuffles, 93 percent of tobacco brands on screen belong to three companies: Altria/Philip Morris (50%), Imperial Tobacco (25%) or Reynolds (18%). Just four cigarette brands make up 62 percent of all brand appearances: Altria's Marlboro (37%), Reynolds' Camel (11%), and Imperial's Kool (7%) and Winston (7%).

Altria and Time Warner lead their industries in showing tobacco brands on screen.


Films with tobacco brands|Number of movies with brands
Films with tobacco brands|% youth-rated G, PG or PG-13
Film data driven by Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, a project of Breathe California