Miramax takes heat over anti-smoking ad in Variety

LOS ANGELES: Smoke Free Movies, a nonprofit group dedicated to stamping out cigarette use in films, ignited a controversy when it accused a film studio of pressuring a trade paper to drop its most recent ad.

LOS ANGELES: Smoke Free Movies, a nonprofit group dedicated to stamping out cigarette use in films, ignited a controversy when it accused a film studio of pressuring a trade paper to drop its most recent ad.

Stanton Glantz, a UC San Francisco School of Medicine professor and head of the campaign, claimed Miramax Films may have asked Daily Variety to reject an advertisement that criticized Oscar contender In the Bedroom for prominently featuring Marlboro cigarettes.

Glantz said Variety, which has run other ads from the group, had accepted the In the Bedroom ad. But the day after an ABC reporter called Miramax for comment on the upcoming ad, Glantz said he received a call from Variety saying that it wasn't fair to highlight a single film on the smoking issue, and that the magazine feared libel problems. Glantz said he got a similar response from The Hollywood Reporter, and further alleged that he received a phone call from an "angry

Miramax publicity executive who tried to talk him out of running the ad altogether.

Miramax's Matthew Hiltzig said the accusations are "not true - no ifs, ands, or buts.

But the story made the front page of last week's LA Times Calendar section, and was picked up by entertainment websites.

"I think Miramax made a big mistake from a PR point of view,

said Glantz.

"If they'd have let the ad run, it wouldn't have been as interesting a story. This is not the kind of publicity they want for this film."

Smoke Free Movies is dedicated to campaigning to raise awareness in Hollywood about the proliferation of smoking in films - lead characters are four times more likely to smoke than members of the general public, according to Glantz.

"Hollywood is either corrupt or stupid, because it's giving away hundreds of millions of dollars of free advertising,

Glantz said.

Smoke Free Movies wants films with cigarette smoking to receive an R rating, run an anti-smoking ad before the films, add a certification that they are not paid-for product placement, and avoid placing specific brands.

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