"This increased number of content categories that the movie industry itself acknowledges may itself be cause for concern," said David Green of the First Amendment Center in Oakland, Calif. "The movie ratings system is voluntary, and this doesn't raise the prospect of government control. It only serves to embolden would-be censors."
Product placement has long been common in Tinseltown, and in the past, cigarettes were no exception. One of the best-known examples was the contract signed by Philip Morris and the producers of "Superman II," starring Christopher Reeve, which repeatedly featured the Marlboro cigarette brand on vans and taxis, while the character Lois Lane was often seen smoking, though her character never smoked in the first "Superman" film nor in any of the comic books.
But in recent years some of Hollywood's biggest players have begun siding with anti-tobacco campaigners.
Late last year, producer Harvey Weinstein decided that educational anti-smoking PSAs would appear before movie titles he released on DVD, including "School for Scoundrels" and "Clerks II."
The PSAs are intended to highlight the dangers of smoking for young people, a move Weinstein said at the time was "the right thing to do."
So while smoking role models remain on celluloid for now, it may be just a matter of time before those with star power start to think twice.