July 26, 2007 -- From Bette Davis to James Dean, many Hollywood legends were never without a cigarette on the silver screen, but those days are long gone, as one of Hollywood's biggest titans has finally kicked the habit.
The CEO of The Walt Disney Co. has made a groundbreaking announcement: Smoking will no longer be featured in Disney movies.
And with other studios likely to follow suit, Hollywood's longstanding love affair with the cigarette may finally be up in smoke.
Bob Iger, the head of Disney, the parent company of ABC News, has pledged to ban smoking from all Disney branded films and to never show cigarette smoking on the big screen again. Additionally, Disney plans to add anti-smoking public service announcements in theaters and on DVD.
"It's safe to assume these are very powerful media in terms of how they can impact behavior — for the good and the bad — and this is one way we felt like we should not be trying to impact people negatively," Iger said.
This is a significant announcement for Disney, a studio that portrays 18 percent of all smoking scenes depicted in youth-rated movies.
Professor Stanton Glantz, of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, authored a recent report on cigarette exposure directed at kids. He says harsher regulations should be also imposed on Disney's sister studios Touchstone and Miramax.
"We would like Disney to say, 'We're not going to have any smoking in any youth-rated films that we make or distribute,' and we'd like the rest of the industry to follow them," Glantz said.
Glantz's research suggests that had this ban come as recently as eight years ago, it could have prevented an additional 1.5 million teens from lighting up.
In another move aimed at regulating the use of cigarettes in films, the Motion Picture Association of America recently announced that cigarette use will be a factor in issuing film ratings. While critics applaud the move, they also argue that it doesn't go far enough, saying that any movie with smoking should automatically get an R rating.