Policy | End public subsidies

Taxpayers bankroll Hollywood’s movies with smoking | Today, taxpayers in fifteen US states and a dozen foreign countries underwrite about one-fifth of Hollywood's production costs through tax credits and other subsidies.

From 2010 to 2014, US states bankrolled 60 percent of all top-grossing movies with smoking. These films delivered more than fifty billion tobacco impessions to US moviegoers alone. Over five years, tax credits and other public subsidies for films with smoking cost state taxpayers an estimated $1.5 billion, more than the same states invested in tobacco control and prevention.

The other 40 percent of smoking films were subsidized by countries including Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. 

Authorities want to reform film subsidies | In California and Washington State, public officials have pushed to reform their states' film subsidy programs.

Los Angeles County health director: 'Any benefit that tobacco-related subsidies for films might have for California's interstate competitiveness must be balanced against proven, catastrophic "collateral damage" to young audiences and long-term health costs to the state.'

Washington State's Attorney General: 'Any subsidy of entertainment products that influence kids to smoke runs counter to Washington State’s own strong public policy of reducing and preventing youth tobacco addiction.'

US CDC calls for harmonized policies | In 2011, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that states could “harmonize their state movie subsidy programs with their tobacco-control programs by limiting eligibility for subsidies to tobacco-free movies.”

WHO finds public subsidies incompatible | Also in 2011, the World Health Organization declared that public subsidies for smoking films are counter to the 168-nation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. ASH UK, the European Network on Tobacco Prevention, and other European health experts have asked the European Commission to make future film productions, from Spain to Hungary, ineligible for public subsidy.

US states face no legal obstacles in specifying what kind of film content qualifies for a public subsidy. They already make everything from pornography to political advertising ineligible for tax credits and grants. Legal opinion

Sample language developed | In most states, the clause in legislation that defines which film productions qualify for public subsidy can be amended to exclude:

…any production that depicts or refers to any tobacco product or non-pharmaceutical nicotine delivery device or its use, associated paraphernalia or related trademarks or promotional material.

Subsidy reform widely endorsed | Major US health and medical groups have endorsed the CDC's recommendation that film productions with smoking be made ineligible for public subsidy:

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Heart Association

American Medical Association

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights

American Public Health Association

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids