I’m not sure if The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will win Best Picture at tonight’s Academy Awards, but it has already earned this year’s Thumbs Down! Hackademy Award from Breathe California Sacramento-Emigrant Trails for showing more than 100 scenes of cigarette-smoking.
The awards are designed to raise awareness of how tobacco’s use in films influences preteens and young adults. Thumbs Down! movies exemplify how tobacco use can needlessly validate smoking as a consequence-free habit.
Breathe California Sacramento also gives a Thumbs Up! award to a movie that either doesn’t include tobacco use or includes a realistic message about tobacco’s disastrous health effects. What Happens in Vegas won the Thumbs Up! award for proving that a movie about Sin City can omit smoking entirely while still projecting Vegas “badness.”
Actors and actresses are recognized as positive or negative role models. This year’s winners are:
- Robert Downey Jr. for delivering a Thumbs Down! performance in Tropic Thunder, which depicts a child and hospital patient smoking
- Penelope Cruz for Thumbs Down! actress in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Will Smith for Thumbs Up! actor in Hancock, portraying a nonsmoking character—albeit one with many other issues—in a movie that was devoid of tobacco use
- Nicole Kidman for Thumbs Up! actress for her smokeless role in Australia
Dartmouth College studies have established a direct link between smoking depicted in films and teens’ increased willingness to try smoking. Studies show 40% of young people who use tobacco products do so because of exposure to smoking in movies.
In the United States alone, 2,050 teens will begin smoking on a daily basis, with 660 dying prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.