Movie Stars and Cigarettes: Enough Already

The movie ratings system, which turns 40 this year, is going after cigarette smoking on the silver screen.

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First it was sex. Then violence. Next, dirty words. And now, the movie ratings system, which turns 40 this year, is going after all that cigarette smoking on the silver screen. "We've added smoking as a factor in the movie descriptors," says Dan Glickman, president of the Washington-based Motion Picture Association of America. "It can really move the ratings up," he adds. And it might not end there, says Glickman, a former Kansas congressman and Clinton Agriculture Department secretary. "More and more, we're describing the kinds of violence" in movies, he says. "Our raters are encouraged to expand the ratings." That the ratings were invented four decades ago and have become so dominant in the movie industry is a tribute to Glickman's predecessor, Jack Valenti, who set them up to fend off government regulation. "It's probably the most successful self-regulatory scheme in the world," Glickman tells Whispers. He says that the MPAA raters grade about 900 movies a year, and it's a rare case when he gets involved—or a movie studio appeals. "By and large, I let them run it," says Glickman, who adds that America's parents rely on the ratings and "have a huge amount of confidence in them." Ironically, when his kids were young and movies less edgy, Glickman was more liberal about which flicks he let his kids see. "We were more open and permissive with our kids in seeing movies," he says. But now, he adds, "I would be following the ratings. There's more stuff in movies."