Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Rush is based on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda for the 1976 Formula One World Championship. The film, directed by Ron Howard, stars Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde and Natalie Dormer, and is set to be released in the UK on September 13th 2013.
The presence of smoking and tobacco advertising in the film is a matter of historical record. In response, anti-smoking groups “have joined state Attorneys General offices to call out the depiction of tobacco brand imagery and smoking in promotions for the movie Rush – coming out in September – citing its potential impact to tobacco use among youth.”
These groups have made a list of demands to the film distributors and advertisers, including:
2. Refraining from including Marlboro imagery in the film’s trailers on the Rush web site and in any other promotional materials.
Between 1974 and 1996, the cigarette manufacturer Marlboro sponsored the McLaren Formula One team. This sponsorship, one of the longest in the sport’s history, bequeathed to McLaren its distinctive red and white livery, which is retained until inherited West’s black and silver colouring in 1997. In 2005, an EU directive prohibited tobacco sponsorship of sporting events and teams, forcing Formula One teams to sever their tobacco sponsorship, as there were many European races.
In 1976, James Hunt’s McLaren M23 features ‘Marlboro’ on its front wing, rear wing and driver canopy. The demand for the film distributors to refrain from using “Marlboro imagery” would require either digital removal or car removal to satiate. Digital removal of the words ‘Marlboro’ from Hunt’s car is a lengthy process, and this demand has been made three weeks prior to the film’s release. Removing Hunt’s McLaren entirely from the distributional material would be absurd; given Hunt is the film’s focus, you cannot promote a film about a racing driver without showing his car.
These anti-smoking groups have also demanded a halt to “depicting smoking in the film’s trailers on the Rush website and in any other promotional materials”. People smoked in 1976: it should not be necessary for a historical film and its promotion to bend to contemporary zeal.
It is claimed that research shows “tobacco images seen on screen are one of the largest independent risk factors for starting to smoke.” Reiner Hanewinkel and James D. Sargent’s paper Exposure to Smoking in Popular Contemporary Movies and Youth Smoking in Germany notes: “Due to the cross-sectional design, the temporal sequence of events could not be determined.” It is a difficult area of research, as casual mechanisms must be disentangled from mere correlation. Young people are not just “exposed” to smoking images, like a virus sprawling out of the cinema screen, but actively choose what films they watch. It remains plausible that young people self-declaring sophistication seek out more mature films.
Rush is a historical film about a real-life rivalry between F1 drivers in 1976. A proper depiction must include the fact people smoked then, as 55% of British men did in 1976, and tobacco sponsorship.