In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Rush and Anti-Smoking Groups

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.

It is absurd to promote this film without the words or logo of 'Marlboro' appearing. (Photo: Dave Hamster)

It is absurd to promote this film without the words or logo of ‘Marlboro’ appearing. (Photo: Dave Hamster)

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.

Historical Films and Contemporary Zeal

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.

A row of McLaren F1 cars through the years. (Photo: al_green)

A row of McLaren F1 cars through the years. (Photo: al_green)

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.

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6 comments on “Rush and Anti-Smoking Groups

  1. JJ
    August 28, 2013

    The film company could always send this intolerant spawn a version that is so heavily pixelated so as to make it incomprehensible. Strap lines top and bottom could go back and forth giving spurious ‘facts’ about smoking and how films like this are likely to influence young people – what, no mention of children? How about Stanton Glantz popping up in the corner of the screen and bleating his balls off about the sheer horror of it all.

    There is a delightfully simple way around this – the pinched face ‘don’t let facts get in the way of prejudice’ brigade can just be told to er…fuck off!

    • Anthony Masters
      August 28, 2013

      I wouldn’t use that precise language, but the idea that recognising people smoked in the 1970s gives children cancer today should be readily dismissed.

      • JJ
        August 28, 2013

        Quite right Anthony.

        I’m angry, hence my language, I could speak very nicely and consider sensitivities right up to my eyeballs. But my life and social life in particular (as well as millions of others) has been hugely damaged by the incessant festering interference by these parasites on the taxpayers back, who have done nothing more than heap misery on people whose only crime is to enjoy a legal product called tobacco.

        The tobacco ban has served no other purpose than to create a group of people that now can be legally hated. This vindictive ban has been successful in driving a poisonous wedge between decent honourable people who contribute to our society. I would like to think that one day smokers will withdraw their services – where appropriate – from anyone involved in tobacco control.

      • Anthony Masters
        August 28, 2013

        Indeed, I would like to think that one day these numerous, cumbersome and punitive restrictions on a legal activity will be repealed. The case for freedom must be made, repeatedly and powerfully.

  2. Ivan
    August 28, 2013

    I completely understand the use of pejorative language when writing about Stanton Glantz. He is a dishonest, unethical fanatic but our harshest judgement should probably be reserved for those who have allowed him to prosper. It is not so much what Glantz does that evokes my wrath, but the fact that he has been allowed to get away with it for 4 decades. UCSF should be ashamed. Without its patronage and without the financial support of the NIH and other allegedly responsible organizations, Glantz would be a little known and considerably poorer obsessive.

    • Anthony Masters
      August 29, 2013

      I have been recently reading about Stanton Glantz, since he appears to the guy pushing hardest on this absurd hypothesis. It should be simply unacceptable to demand the submission of the creative industries to an outside goal.

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