The perception of cigarettes and smoking in cinema and pop culture at large has drastically changed over the last century, as medical science has continued to prove just how dangerous tobacco products are. At this point, it's actually kind of rare to see a protagonist who smokes - but that's not stopping Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger from putting his foot down on the issue. And how is he doing that? By declaring that his company will "absolutely prohibit" smoking in its films that are targeted at younger audiences.
Variety got the scoop on this interesting development, reporting that Iger making his statements about smoking while responding to a question during Disney’s annual shareholder’s meeting today. The details of the company's plan moving forward is that all Disney films featuring a PG-13 rating or lower - which includes the titles from Marvel Studios - will not be allowed to depict any of its characters smoking. The only potential exception to this rule is in cases where historical accuracy is important. An example that the executive threw out is Abraham Lincoln, who was just the subject of a Steven Spielberg-directed biopic and was known to be a smoker during his lifetime.
The interesting twist added to this story is the way that this kind of big decision might impact the MPAA. Given this rule by Disney, one might think that there would be some pressure on the ratings organization to consider that any film depicting smoking characters as being unsuitable for children and therefore rated R. When asked about this, however, Bob Iger made it clear that the decision being made is an internal one, and not meant to influence either other Hollywood studios or the ratings board. Said Iger,
We don’t get involved in how MPAA applies ratings to films… nor do we try to influence the policies of the other studios we compete with.
Of course, looking back into Disney's history, it's worth noting that they made quite a number of movies and shorts that featured characters smoking either cigarettes or other forms of tobacco. There's not only 101 Dalmatians' Cruela de Ville - pictured above, but also Pinocchio:
And the crows from Dumbo:
That being said, Disney also got in pretty early on the anti-smoking front, having actually released a short called "No Smoking" starring Goofy all the way back in 1951.
How do you feel about this smoking policy at Disney? Do you think that they're making the right call? Hit the comments with your thoughts.