It is not very common to see people smoking cigarettes in modern television and movies because most studios have either banned the practice altogether or have implemented very strict guidelines about the circumstances in which tobacco products can be used as props. Even Netflix only allows smoking on shows that are rated for adults.
In the 1980s, it seemed like everyone in Hollywood smoked, which was partly due to the fact that smoking was more popular and there was less of a social stigma about it at the time, but there was also a deliberate effort on the part of some studios to show their actors smoking.
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In 1994, The New York Times reported on internal memorandums from the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, which discussed a million-dollar contract that the company had with various directors and film producers. The internal document expressed regret about the money spent on the program, concluding that they did not get the level of advertising hype that they were hoping for.
This is an advertising tactic known as “product placement,” and it is entirely legal, but it shows how companies that know their products are dangerous can use the media to advertise in more subtle ways. In one of the company’s deals, they paid Associated Film Promotions $500,000 to “incorporate personal usage” of tobacco products for 5 films, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Godfather III,” “Rambo,” “50/50” and “Rocky IV.”
The documents showed that the company made deals for 22 other films between 1979 and 1983. This one company had a total of about $1.3 million invested in product placement advertisements for films in just a few years, and this practice was taking place with many companies over a large span of time. Film studios and governments have cracked down on smoking portrayals over the years, but product placement is still a very common advertising tactic in movies and television.
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