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Massachusetts first state to show anti-smoking ads at movies

May 23, 1997

BOSTON (AP) _ The newest preview playing at the movie theater has no explosions, romance or mystery. But it hopes to kick a lot of butts.

Massachusetts is showing 30-second anti-tobacco messages before movies, becoming the first state to take its campaign against cigarettes to the big screen.

This month, moviegoers are seeing a takeoff of the Marlboro Man: A cool cowboy riding his horse through the Wild West lights a cigarette, drops it in his lap and sets his pants on fire.

Not all the spots are humorous. One shows a 26-year-old woman who thought smoking would make her look older. It did _ emphysema and a lung transplant wizened her face well beyond her years.

California and Arizona have similar television spots, and Los Angeles health officials said they are considering a movie campaign as well.

Massachusetts’ four-month ad campaign, which began two months ago, is costing the state $45,000. The money comes from an anti-smoking fund created by a 25-cent tax increase on cigarettes.

Movie advertising costs about 50 percent more than ads on TV, but campaign director Gregory Connolly said it’s worth it to combat powerful images of such stars as John Travolta and Winona Ryder lighting up.

A recent study by the American Lung Association found that 77 percent of the movies released in 1994 and 1995 featured characters either smoking or holding tobacco products. It also found that feature films are five times more likely than television to show tobacco use.

The ads aren’t showing before movies released by Warner Bros. or Walt Disney. Both studios have policies against advertising before their movies.

Dan Fellman, executive vice president for Warner Bros. distribution, said smoking is a person’s choice ``and since they can’t hit that remote, I just don’t think we should be the ones to put it in their face.″

But in Boston, the messages earned kudos from many of those they are meant to target.

``I think it’s a really appropriate place to put it because a lot of young people and older people go to the movies,″ said Janet Llavina, 20, of Boston, who saw a Thursday matinee of ``Liar Liar.″

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