A US anti-smoking group blasted the sci-fi blockbuster Avatar, saying that its portrayal of a character who lovingly tugs on a cigarette sent the wrong message to movie-goers.
The group, called Smoke Free Movies, took out full-page advertisements in trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to protest the on-screen smoking of the scientist Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver.
The campaign was initiated by Stanton A Glantz, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education, and argued that for every 100 million dollars the movie earns at the box office, it will "deliver an estimated 40 million tobacco impressions to theatre audiences." The organisation estimated that this presented
the tobacco industry with some 50 million dollars worth of free advertising.
In comments to The New York Times, Avatar director James Cameron said he agreed that role models for young people should not smoke in films, but that "movies should reflect reality."
"I wanted Grace to be a character who is initially off-putting and even unpleasant. She's rude, she swears, she drinks, she smokes - we were showing that Grace doesn't care about her human body.
Smoking is a filthy habit, which I don't support, and neither, I believe, does Avatar."
Glantz, however, dismissed the argument, telling the paper that the notion of a chain-smoking environmental scientist was a fantasy.
"I know lots of environmental scientists like the Sigourney Weaver character," he said. "Not a single one of them smokes cigarettes." - (Sapa, January 2010)