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Time Warner seeks shareholders vote on tobacco depictions in movies

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MUMBAI: Warner Bros’ parent company Time Warner has become the first company to hold a shareholder vote on smoking in movies. The resolution was submitted by shareholder advocacy non-profit As You Sow and non-profit healthcare provider Trinity Health.

According to a 2012 U.S. Surgeon General report, “there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people.”

Based on a subsequent 2014 Surgeon General report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded in 2014: “Giving an R-rating to future movies with smoking would… prevent one million [1,000,000] deaths from smoking among children alive today.”

“This is a historic opportunity for Time Warner. For the first time, shareholders will be informed that the company's products are putting millions of children at risk,” said As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar.

At the recent Walt Disney annual meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney would prohibit smoking in all future films. Disney is the first major movie studio to make such a public announcement, although the language of the policy has not yet been released.

“More companies will follow the example of Disney,” said newly-appointed U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, at his swearing-in ceremony in April. “We could save over a million children from premature death if every film studio followed suit.”

As You Sow published a memo in support of the Time Warner shareholder resolution, noting that Time Warner's policy to reduce tobacco depictions in movies allows for “compelling creative reasons.”

The number of tobacco images that Time Warner delivers to kids each year is subject to extreme fluctuations. According the University of California San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Time Warner eliminated nearly all smoking in its youth-rated films in 2010. But in 2013, its films accounted for 5.6 billion impressions, which was 44 per cent of all tobacco impressions delivered by top-grossing youth-rated films.

“Tobacco in youth-rated movies is an unnecessary liability. This crisis in an opportunity for the company to demonstrate its leadership and its commitment to health,” said As You Sow environmental health program manager Austin Wilson.

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