Since Disney’s 2005 pledge to minimize smoking in its films, the company has been a leader in the production of smoke-free movies. As of 2017, all Disney films have been completely smoke-free, meaning tobacco use is not depicted. Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, however, puts Disney’s smoke-free status in jeopardy. Fox does not have a similar smoke-free policy for its releases.
There is a clear and established link between the depiction of smoking in movies and tobacco use by youth. The Center for Disease Control predicts that over 6 million children in the current generation will start smoking after seeing on-screen tobacco use, and 2 million of those children are expected to have their lives shortened by conditions caused by tobacco use.
In 2018, Friends Fiduciary joined the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia and other investors in asking Disney to mitigate the public health risk posed by its newly acquired cinematic properties by extending its smoke-free policy to all productions, including Fox’s planned productions. Investors also urged the company to include graphic warnings depicting the dangers of smoking before existing films that include on-screen tobacco.
Disney has historically taken its pledge to protect public health interests by minimizing on-screen tobacco use seriously, and Friends Fiduciary hopes that Disney will continue to honor this pledge after the acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Smoking is a concern to us as both Quakers and as investors—it poses serious public health risks and causes over billions of dollars in damage to the global economy every year. Read the letter here.