Changes to how movies are rated

As part of the Government of Ontario’s omnibus bill, Bill 229, “Protect, Support, and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020” the Government is replacing the current age-based movie rating system where movie studios had to get a rating for their movie in order to show it. In its place will be an optional content warning system, determined by each movie theatre that shows the movie, that includes some suggestions about what audiences might want to know about a movie before determining whether it would be appropriate to watch. This change to the rating system is taking place on June 8th, 2021.

While depictions of smoking and e-cigarette use are included as options movie theatres could choose to share as part of these content warnings, we are concerned that the new system is not mandatory, does not require consistent warnings, and does not include an age-based rating.

The changes made to movie ratings could mean more children and youth will see tobacco imagery in movies and as a result more will start smoking or vaping. Additionally, moving away from the current movie rating system to a content warning system will mean there will no longer be anything that could discourage the film industry from using tobacco imagery in movies that are marketed to children.

Our members have been in contact with the Government of Ontario to raise our concerns. We encourage you to contact your MPP as well.

To learn more:

Ontario’s plan to drop film ratings puts children at risk, health official says by Rob Ferguson
Credits roll on traditional age-based movie ratings by Antonella Artuso

Share your thoughts on movie ratings in Ontario


Streaming Services and Tobacco

As consumer trends shift away from watching films in theatre, we often wonder what does that mean for tobacco imagery in youth rated media. CBC’s Wendy Mesley talks about this and other product placement in here weekly podcast:


Update In response to this podcast, Netflix responded with the following statement:

Joker (2019) 14A

Movie Review Submitted by: Ramje Uthayakumaar

Joker, directed by Todd Philips, is essentially an origin story for the super villain Joker. A man named Arthur Fleck, who was an aspiring stand-up comedian, gets pushed to edge by the people and the society of Gotham City. Gotham City is a dump of a city with a huge wealth gap that can be seen throughout the film. Arthur also has multiple mental illnesses, such as Depression and Schizophrenia, and also a medical disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times. This all adds to his outcast characterization that has him shunned by society for being different.

In the movie, Arthur tips over the edge after being assaulted by three rich young men and is forced to defend himself by shooting one of them. But, one can say this was more psychopathic in nature than it seems because after shooting two of the men in the subway, he chases the other one who tries to escape through the station. In the end, he catches up with him and shoots him, not once, but unloads the revolver into him. This kind of shows the viewer that he has started to change into the Joker.

The movie was very well-shot, the cinematographer Lawrence Sher knew how to engage the audience with every scene. He paid attention to the colour in each shot. I also really enjoyed Joaquin Phoenix’s acting. It was amazing. I’m not much of a critic, but I know good acting when I see it. I think he should be considered for an Oscar for the “Best Actor in a motion picture” award because of how dedicated he was as he lost almost 50 pounds for the role!

One thing I didn’t like was the lack of a clear theme. Though not all movies should have a theme or a motive that it’s telling the audience, I feel like the Joker could have had a bigger one because of its take on the way society treats those with mental illnesses.

Movie Smoking or vaping status: This film contains various smoking scenes

What was happening in the scenes with smoking / vaping? This movie did have scenes with characters smoking cigarettes. Arthur Fleck had many scenes that showed him smoking a cigarette and in some of these scenes he’s doing nothing but sitting down, thinking and smoking or he’s dancing or running. It appears that having the character smoke was to make him do something and not just look boring.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use? Smoking looked natural for him because it was clear that Arthur Fleck didn’t care about his well-being at all and the film may of implied a bit about mental illness and it’s relationship to smoking.


Ad Astra (2019) PG

Movie Review Submitted by: Ramje Uthayakumaar

The movie Ad Astra was directed by James Gray and featured Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones. Ad Astra is about a successful astronaut named Roy McBride going on a dangerous mission to Neptune to contact his father, Clifford McBride. At the time, he was recognized as the greatest astronaut because he has been to many planets and went the further into space than anyone else. Clifford McBride went on a mission called the “Lima Project” to find intelligent life in the Solar System, but went missing and was presumed dead. In addition to finding out more about his father, Roy McBride also has to stop a series of powerful electrical surges that are coming from Neptune and are affecting all of the planets and scientists say that it can destroy Earth. Roy must go on a dangerous mission through space to find his father whom he hasn’t seen since he was 16 and hopefully save the Earth from destruction.

I really enjoyed the movie’s take on future space travel and discovery. Overall, there wasn’t anything I did not like, and it was a great movie to watch!

Movie Smoking or vaping status: Smoke-Free Movie

Did the absence of tobacco or vaping affect the plot or quality of the movie?

The absence of tobacco and vaping had no affect on the overall quality of the movie.

What are the benefits of not having tobacco or vaping products (e.g. e-cigarettes) present on the screen?

Smoking in this movie would of been ridiculous in terms of the modern space travel and fear of unnecessary explosions!

Black Panther (2018)

Reviewed by: Sahana Maheswaran

Black Panther is a story about a man named Tchalla and his country Wakanda. The country appears to be a third world country but they have a metal called Vibranium which allows them to live comfortably and create weapons far ahead of any first world country. After his father, the king died in a terrible accident, he returns to Wakanda to claim his rightful spot as King. Unfortunately, his enemy appears and wants to dethrone him and take over Wakanda. They want to steal the vibranium to sell it and put the entire world at risk. Together with the help of his friends and family, he has to disguise himself as the Black Panther and ensure the safety of his people.

I loved the battle scenes and the cool tech (even if they were imaginary!) One part I didn’t like was when background characters did or said something and they were never mentioned from then on.

Movie Smoking or vaping status: Smoke-Free Movie

Did the absence of tobacco or vaping affect the plot or quality of the movie?

The absence of tobacco and vaping had no affect on the overall quality of the movie.

What are the benefits of not having tobacco or vaping products (e.g. e-cigarettes) present on the screen?

Black Panther has a adventurous and meaningful plot-line. Having tobacco in the movie wouldn’t be portraying a good message especially for being the first revolutionary movie about a black hero. Most people who watch Black Panther are kids, so why would it be necessary to promote tobacco use or vaping to underage kids?

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Reviewed by: Madeline St. John

AVENGERS: ENDGAME is the fourth movie of the Avengers series. After the tragic events that took place in Avengers: Infinity Wars (2018), the universe and half the population disappeared from existence. In this fourth movie, the Avengers assemble once again to reverse the actions of Thanos, and restore the universe.

I would suggest the audience for this movie to be for anyone who is 13 years or older. I recommend 13+ because there are major scenes of violence throughout the movie that may not be appropriate for younger viewers.

Movie Smoking or vaping status: Smoke-Free Movie

Did the absence of tobacco or vaping affect the plot or quality of the movie?

The absence of tobacco and vaping had no affect on the overall quality of the movie.

Did the characters appear less believable/realistic because they did not use tobacco or vape?

The characters appeared to be adventurous and believable with the absence of tobacco and vaping use.

What are the benefits of not having tobacco or vaping products (e.g. e-cigarettes) present on the screen?

Not having tobacco or vaping products in the movie had the benefit of showing the audience that you don’t need to use tobacco or vaping products to be seen/viewed as cool, or heroic. Since the movie is targeted towards teens and young adults, it is important that this movie demonstrate that you can be just as strong, adventurous, and heroic as the characters are without the use of those products.



Reviewed by: Ally Ireland

AFTER is about Tessa Young, a young girl whose life is dedicated to school, her boyfriend, and pleasing her mother. She enters college, and instantly hits it off with her roommate who starts taking her to parties, and teaching her how to have a little fun with her life. Her mother and boyfriend at home both disapprove of this new Tessa instantly, but that doesn’t matter to her, because of Harden Scott. He makes her question her entire life up to this point, and makes her want to live, instead of just walking through life trying to live up to her mother’s expectations.

I would suggest this movie to females in their teens. The movie is centered on college students; which younger generations can relate to much better than adults. There is mild mature subject matter including parties, mild sexual content, and mature subject matter.

What was happening in the scenes with smoking / vaping?

The main character Tessa’s roommate was hitting a juul when Tessa first arrived to college. There was also a scene at a party where someone was recording another person hitting a vape because “it looked cool”.

Would you notice if the smoking / vaping was taken out of the movie?

I would not, because the vaping did absolutely nothing for the plot, except make the characters seem more like typical “college students”.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use?

There were no health effects of nicotine use shown in the film.

Game Night


Reviewed by: Priyanthi Param

Game Night is a comedy/mystery/crime/action film rated 14A and is directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. It premiered February 23rd 2018 and stars Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, and many others. Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) fall in love after playing game nights with their friends. However, their marriage becomes a bit exhausted due to their inability to have kids. To which their doctors speculate that it is stress caused by Max’s successful and popular brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Not to mention that his brother’s impending arrival to town causes him to be a bit uneasy and jealous. When Brooks decides to host a game night with Max, Annie, and some friends, he decides to take game night to a whole new level with promises of thrills with a reward of his new sports car. The plan of the game is a fake kidnapping of one player and the other contestants are to find the player kidnapped. But the game takes a twist, as they later find out that it’s not “fake” after all.

Both John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have yet again brought an adrenaline-filled movie to us. Throughout the movie, there were many twists and turns, comic scenes, and seat jumping incidents that brought the audience many laughs and shocks. Overall, I would say that the movie is great to watch with a group of friends. I would recommend this movie to those who are 16+, as there are some scenes of violence, coarse language, light alcohol use and a few adult jokes.

Is there any smoking in the movie? There was no tobacco present in the movie, (however there was alcohol present).

Did the absence of tobacco affect the plot or quality of the movie? The absence of tobacco did not affect the quality or plot of the film. The characters had not seemed less realistic or believable as they did not use tobacco.



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Reviewed by: Sal Sabila

Wonder is originally based on the New York best-selling book “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio. It is rated PG and directed by Stephen Chbosky. It stars familiar faces including Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Mandy Patinkin. There is absolutely no smoking in the movie. We have encountered audience members of all different ages from infant-adults. Overall, this incredible movie can attract anyone’s attention due to its strong message of spreading kindness and love instead of judging each other for who we are. The plot of the story is surrounded by a boy named “August Pullman”, also known as “Auggie”, who has a face deformity due to Treacher Collins Syndrome. Auggie has never been to a regular elementary school until grade 5. His mother takes the first step by making the decision of sending Auggie to school. Even though his father was reluctant about sending Auggie to school at first, he manages to accept her decision. It was a difficult transition for Auggie. Due to his unique look, he is constantly made fun of by some of his peers. Eventually, people start to speak to him and realize that Auggie Pullman is a human being just like rest of them. Even though he looks a bit different from everyone else, he has dreams of becoming an astronaut, a strong aptitude for science and he loves Star Wars like a lot of us. The movie ends with Auggie Pullman attending his graduation ceremony where he receives a special honour for being very brave and courageous when faced with difficulty in life. One of the most important lessons that anyone will take from the movie is that “When you have to choose between being right and kind, choose kind”.

Was there any smoking in the movie? No, not at all.

Did the absence of tobacco affect the plot or quality of the movie? The absence of tobacco did not affect the plot or the quality of the movie at all.

What are the benefits of not having tobacco present on the screen? The characters did not appear any less believable for not using tobacco. Movies like Wonder try to promote positivity and love for each other. Smoking is not beneficial for our health in any way.

Why do you think the movie-makers chose to keep tobacco out of this movie? I think one of the reasons why the movie-makers decided to keep it smoke-free is because the movie is intended for families to watch together. There is a lot to learn from this movie and smoking is definitely not one of the lessons that the movie-makers would like to promote.


Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: BPM (Beats Per Minute)

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BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)

Reviewed by: Fyffe Hunting (Public Health Worker at HKPR District Health Unit) and Youth Group

BPM (Beats Per Minute) is a French drama film rated 14A that was screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It was an informative film about people living with AIDS in the 1990’s. It stars Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adele Haenel and Antoine Reinartz. It profiled people in the LGBTQ+ community. It was also about Nathan, a character who doesn’t have AIDS.  It got up close and personal about the characters’ lives and their relationships with each other. We would recommend the movie to a mature audience.  It was an 8.5/10 film.

Was there smoking in the movie? – Yes

tobacco impressions

How often was smoking found in the movie? In the movie, the image of tobacco use was shown ten times.

What was happening in the scene with smoking? Tobacco use was present when the characters were stressed and needed relief or were in pain.

Was smoking necessary for the characters in the movie? In our opinion it wasn’t really relevant to the story. If these images were not used in the movie it wouldn’t have changed the movie.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use? No- the health effects and consequences of tobacco use were not shown.