The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) assigns film ratings (for example, G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17) to indicate "the degree of caution parents should exercise in weighing whether a movie is suitable for children."
According to the MPAA Ratings Chief Joan Graves, "The ratings system exists for one purpose: to inform parents about the content of films."
Like other systems, the MPAA film rating system sometimes disappoints.
The Skateland movie is a good example. Released in May, the movie has a "PG-13" rating, despite the fact that there are teens smoking and drinking alcohol in the movie. Even the Skateland movie trailer depicts characters drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Since movies with smoking are supposed to get an "R" rating, it is hard to understand why Skateland has a PG-13 rating.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has pushed for the Skateland DVD to get an "R" rating.
There are plenty of other movies with smoking that get a PG-13 rating, so be sure to look at a movie's rating descriptors in addition to the overall rating to help keep your kids from movies with smoking. The rating descriptor might mention that a film includes things like violence or language, or like Skateland's rating descriptor, that it includes "substance abuse and smoking - involving teens."
And why be concerned about smoking in movies? The AAP states that "Tobacco content in media products, compared to other content often deemed objectionable, is unique in that large-scale population studies have found that exposure to tobacco imagery leads to serious health harm: the U.S. National Cancer Institute has concluded that exposure to smoking in motion pictures causes adolescents to begin smoking."