Christian Ministries Applaud Disney's Ban on Movie Smoking

Several Christian ministries in the United States expressed how delighted they were to hear that the Walt Disney Co. would be eliminating all smoking scenes in movies released under their label.

|PIC1|The news was announced on Wednesday, and Disney executives also noted that they will make a push to discourage smoking in films under their other brands, Touchstone and Miramax.

Christian leaders felt that the move was appropriate since lighting up on-screen often turns into real-life mimicking by viewers.

"We applaud The Walt Disney Company for its decision to eliminate and reduce smoking from the films it produces," responded Plugged In director Bob Waliszewski, who heads Focus on the Family's entertainment and culture division, in a statement. "Since studies have shown that onscreen smoking promotes actual smoking, we encourage other film companies to follow suit."

Disney made the announcement when chief executive Robert Iger sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) - chairman of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee - officially making a pledge to cut the nasty habit. The House had held a similar hearing about the topic last month.

"The Walt Disney Co. shares your concern regarding deaths due to cigarette smoking," Iger wrote in the document.

According to the policy, the company's DVDs will now include a public service announcement warning about the dangers of smoking if a character in the film will be performing the act. Company reps are also encouraging theaters to show a health warning before their screenings as well.

"With this announcement, Disney is affirming what we at Focus on the Family and Plugged In have said for years," said Waliszweski in a statement, "young people are influenced by the entertainment they consume."

Universal has also joined the anti-smoking movement. Although they had already introduced a policy in April to reduce smoking in youth films, they officially confirmed it on Wednesday. Studio executives are also pushing for health warning before their films.

"We believe it's possible to do that while respecting filmmakers' creative choices and we are committed to partnering with them in this effort," explained Ron Meyer, chairman of Universal Studios, according to the Associated Press.

The move for anti-smoking flicks may have received a nudge from a new rating standard that was announced this year by the Motion Picture Association of America. In May, the non-profit film rater explained that they would begin considering smoking as a factor in rating films.

Whatever the reason for the change in heart, Christian groups are happy to see the change.

They are also hoping that the companies will continue on in increasing their standards, removing other inappropriate content from films that are unhealthy for children and adults alike.

"I hope Hollywood extends the same discretion to motion pictures that glamorize sexual activity, drugs and alcohol and rebellion and violence," concluded Waliszewski. "By continuing to take accountability for the messages their movies send, filmmakers are helping to make going to the movies a safer and more family-friendly experience."