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Youth volunteers bring smoke-free message to local outdoor movie nights

DUNNVILLE, AUGUST 24, 2015 – Kids are influenced by those around them and by those they observe , including friends, parents, siblings and movie stars.

Whether they are watching animated or live-action movies, kids pay close attention to how their favourite characters dress, talk and behave on the big screen. This is why a group of local youth want to make sure movie characters aren’t lighting up in films rated for kids and teens.

HEAT, a volunteer youth group with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, is sponsoring two free outdoor movie nights, one in Dunnville and one in Caledonia, to raise awareness about the impact that smoking in youth-rated movies has on kids.

Gnomeo and Juliet will be shown at Central Park, in Dunnville, on August 26th and Home will be shown at Kinsmen Park, in Caledonia, on August 29th. Both movies will begin at dusk and people are asked to bring blankets or chairs to enjoy the show. Prior to the start of the movies, HEAT volunteers will be running a number of games and activities to educate attendees about the risks associated with on-screen smoking.

“Research shows that the more youth see smoking in movies, the more likely they are to start,” said Kaelan Sullivan, a youth volunteer with HEAT. “It makes sense because kids often idolize celebrities and want to do what they do, so when they see them smoking in a movie, they think it’s cool, rebellious and acceptable, or a symbol of success.”

Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable disease and death in Ontario. Leading provincial, national and international health organizations, are advocating for a rating change that would require all new movies rated for kids and teens (i.e. films rated G, PG, and 14A) to be tobacco-free.

“If we want to prevent young people from starting to use tobacco products we need to look at what influences that decision, and smoking in movies is a major factor,” said Brodie Ricker, another HEAT youth volunteer. “Compared to other major public health problems, on-screen smoking can be fixed quickly, and at no public cost, and prevent a lot of our peers from early deaths.”
Movies are one of the last places tobacco products can be promoted, as most other forms of advertising have been banned. Over the past 10 years, 86 per cent of the top-grossing movies in Ontario that contained smoking were rated for kids and teens.

“When you look at the prevalence of smoking in youth-rated movies compared to other movies, it’s pretty clear that the tobacco industry is using movies to recruit new customers,” added Ricker.

Parents who would like to find out which new release movies contain smoking or would like to show support for smoke-free youth-rated movies can visit www.hookedbyhollywood.ca.

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Media contact:
Nicole Stone
Health Promoter, Community Health Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3201
nicole.stone@hnhu.org