COVID-19 is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation.

Get the latest information from CDC ( | NIH Resources | NIDA Resources

Drugs & Health Blog

Do Scientists Light Up?

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.

Image Courtesy of Desirée Delgado

Sara Bellum

Have you seen Avatar? Awesome special effects. And you had to love the story, especially if you're into science. But there was this one thing ...the top scientist (played by Sigorney Weaver) was a chain smoker. WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?

Alright, so movie directors will put smoking in movies to make characters look edgy and rebellious, or even stupid sometimes. But Avatar is happening 125 years in the future. Would a top-level scientist a century from now get addicted to cigarettes and not know how to stop?

Or maybe, like some other bloggers suggest, this was sponsored "product placement" by the tobacco industry-a sneaky way to get teens to think smoking is cool. Some people say that because it's illegal now for the tobacco industry to advertise on TV or in other places, their new strategy is to hook potential customers by associating smoking with heroes and heroines.

Meanwhile, the American Lung Association and other groups are trying to stop moviemakers from showing so much smoking—especially since research shows that teens who see a lot of smoking in movies are more likely to start smoking themselves.

Thanks to NIDA research, we now know what smoking really does to people. And it's far from cool. To put it bluntly, the effects range from stinky breath and bad gums to heart and lung disease to early death. This message has gotten through despite the movies, and teens are smoking less now than they have in over a decade. Thanks to NIDA, better treatments to help people quit are also getting out there.

A hundred years from now, incurable smoking addiction could be a thing of the past, like small pox. So you have to wonder why this amazing movie director who learned so much about science to create Avatar didn't take a good look at what is going on in science and health. Why else would a successful, top-level scientist still be chain smoking that far into the future? Especially in a lab, of all places!

Let SBB know if you see any other ridiculous smoking scenes in the movies.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Money.... it all comes down to vitamin M. Tobacco industry has always found a way to find loopholes in the restrictions placed on their marketing strategies. Immediately after the Master Settlement Agreement, the industry was successful in convincing the lawmakers that public health and related professionals cannot use the money that various states won in the settlement for the purpose of advocacy or awareness against tobacco industry. Big tobacco was able to prevent less than 5% , in some states, of the MSA money from going towards anti-tobacco campaigns due to conflict of interest. Hence it is not surprising at all to see that they use product placement, in movies that targets tweens and teens to encourage smoking at an early age. While Hollywood maybe well ahead of Bollywood (Indian movie industry) in terms of the quality of films made and technology used, perhaps they can learn from the Indian film industry. Today all movies made in India, now displays a 'Smoking is injurious to health ' warning and the government has issued a directive to ban smoking as much as possible from movies. While a complete ban may not be feasible, perhaps movie producers and studios can develop a policy and display a similar message and not have smoking scenes in All movies from G through PG-13. This could start on a trial basis.

I also think that the director should have thought ahead to the future because obviously if most people realize to themselves there is going to be a cure to help everyone get off of there addiction to smokingthe director would be the first person to because they made the movie. Note To Everyone: You should get ready for the wipe out of smokes because cigarettes are soon going to be with the dinosaurs.
By the way if any of you people who made Avatar read this: Avatar is a great movie!! I loved it especially because it was mixed with love, friendship, courage and bravery.

PEOPLE SHOULDNT SMOKE and i tottaly agree that somebody that smart to create and use avatars that they would be smart enough not to smoke and know the effects

Cigarettes, one of the most addictive and destructive, over the counter drugs known to man.
One of the few legal substances available in stores that can injure or kill when used as intended.
As a Plastic Surgeon, I see first hand the effects of smoking on the skin. Smoking causes premature
aging in two ways. It uses up Vitamin C in the body, about 35 mg for each cigarette. Vitamin C is an
unstable Vitamin and can't be manufactured by the body, one of its functions is the preservation of collagen
in the skin, the substance that gives skin its plump and youthful appearance. The collagen breaks down
causing premature wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. The physical act of smoking cause us to squint,
exaggerating more the wrinkling around the eyes. Stop poisoning yourself. Quit smoking now.

Nice information, this really useful for me. There is nothing to argue about.
Keep posting stuff like this i really like it. Thx.

You guys don't know what the heck your talking about marijuana is a great plant that will increase your happiness and can inspire you to do great things. What would you say if I told you Benjamin franklin smoked it?

@The truth--you know, people have said that about all kinds of drugs, including those that can get you addicted. NIDA's mission is to prevent that. Like Benjamin Franklin said: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

I love the point that you have raise here and it just goes to show that even mega blockbusting and revenue busting films such as avatar can be really weak in some areas like that. I think to be honest as good as the effects and the story line is apart from the smoking which I agree on probably wouldn't happen in the future in this setting and environment. (Unless he is after the time we stopped smoking and took it upon then). But it was probably because they rushed it a little that happened too. Well I am sure there will be a sequal and I hope there's no smoking in it too! Thanks.

@p ricky-as far as i know ciggs have very luttle harm to the brain. i think if you tried it once the harm has alredy been done.

Hence it is not surprising at all to see that they use product placement, in movies that targets tweens and teens to encourage smoking at an early age. While Hollywood maybe well ahead of Bollywood (Indian movie industry) in terms of the quality of films made and technology used, perhaps they can learn from the Indian film industry.

i honestly didn't even realize that they had the top scientist smoking until you asked about it... but i think the directors didn't really want people to focus on the little details. Now that i think about it though noone should have been doing any type of tobacco or any drug for that matter. maybe they just didnt think of any of the consequences.

Ya, smoking is so very bad for you. Do you know that ciggz have a great amount of tar in them. Smoking really messes up your lungs and the way you breath. Smoking can cause ALL types of cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, i don't think that this is a cancer, but it does mess with your body, but anyways, if you smoke you will most likely have kidney failure. Those are most of the reasons why i don't smoke anymore, but the main reason why i stopped to was because of my family, i couln't put them through any more pain.
Even though i've never seen this movie, i do understand that the people who have made this movie and movies like this one, that they get away with a lot of things in movies that they really shouldn't be getting getting away with... It makes me sad when I see little kids watching movies that are not ( G ) rated.
Smoking causes SOOOOOOOO many problems in ones life time. Some people have enough problems as it is, they don't need to worry about having cancer, lossing a lung, or having to talk through a hole in your throat. I mean that doesn't seem like mush fun to me.... How about you????

Surely smoking is bad for health.

Smoking is bad, true. But there are warning labels. No body is forcing you to smoke. No one is telling you to go waste all your money on boxes of cigarettes. The commercials do make them seem promising, but no matter how you look at it, it is still your choice. Their are always many warning labels on the box, their are many possibilities to quit smoking but it is always their choice. We are not siding with or against people that smoke, we are simply stating the facts.

After reading your article, i have concluded that this is true. Many Kids do end up smoking because they wtch the many popular movies today. Even in Low rated movies, Smoking is prevalent. Two citations of articles online That prove this true are: "Movies inspire children to smoke." USA Today 07 Nov 2005, Print. ...And... "Cigarettes Teens and Movies." America 200.19 (2009): n. pag. Web. 1 Apr 2010.

After reading the article I think this article is true. It seems like very many kids watch shows or movies with people they admire even though they smoke. So when they see those people smoke they think its ok and cool to smoke just because those people in the movies do. So I think movie makers should try and keep smoking out of a movie.

It may be true that movies showing smoking actors will cause some teens to become smokers. But, what about adults? Nearly 90% of R-rated films included smoking between 1996 and 2004. 75% of youth-rated films were involved with smoking, according to the American Legacy Foundation. However, it seems as though the teens are more induced than the adults. Studies show people under the age of 20 will more than likely be hooked. I think because teen brains are still developing, the addiction causes the process to lean in a different direction: the path of smoking. Could this be the reason for the increase of smoking in youth-rated films? Is this how the tobacco industry thinks they will keep business booming? And now, researchers believe movies containing smoking should be given a rating of R. I believe they shouldn’t be. What if the purpose of the movie or film was to drive teenagers from smoking? Would it still be R-rated then? The least they could do would be to put up anti-smoking notices before the movie begins.

Cowdrey, Leah. "Smoking Imagery Increasingly Prevalent in Movies, Report Finds." Nation's Health Sep 2006: 14. Print.

"Smoke Free." Scholastic Action 12 Nov 2007: 3. Print.

"Cigarettes, Teens and Movies." America 22 Jun 2009: 4. Print.

i would say yes, some scientist still light up and will for awhile. i wont demonize the movie or director but i will say i believe that teens getting hooked has more to do with the environment around them, parents other family and friends and family's of friends more than movies or adds. i first started when i was 7 along with sneaking alcohol, the main reason being that everyone older than me outside of school that i knew smoked, so i wanted to find out what it was about, i easily stopped later that year since it did nothing for me and i thought it was pointless. then when i was 16 my dad had a heart attack and the year before i lost 2 people that where dear to me so in the wake of all the stress and weed becoming a rare thing i had a lapse of judgment and thought well maybe this could suffice for when i could use a bowl pack, well cigg after cigg went by and now even more wondering why people do it since it didnt even give me a buzz or head rush. sadly enough a few days later i got the truth since i was now having a nicotine fit and that was the only thing that stopped the fit, needles to say im a 23 year old chain smoker and of all the drugs that i have used and abused tobacco was by far the most disappointing and the only one thats ever made me feel like i need more, this is really saying alot since ive done coke, alcohol, Ecstasy, triple cs, shrooms, many pharmaceuticals legally and illegaly, crack 3 times, salvia (its nice and legal, but i have no idea on health affects mental or physical) pot (the only thing i would ever recommend and only if you feel like you cant take much more of life or your on harder drugs, legal or illegal, and if it dont work, counseling, and yes i love pot but i dont do it everyday), and im not sure what else to be honest, lets face it i stop caring so much after my grandpa died. with all these hard drugs ive done and tobacco still being the least disappointing and only one i personally found addictive i tell kids every time they see me light up or i see them light up to either dont start this pointless habit or to stop while they are ahead and it only gets harder to stop.

In my opinion, it was not as big of conspiracy as you suggest. A person smoking in a movie makes them seem less perfect, but more kick awesome, showing their disregard for the rules. Therefore, smoking seems, simply put, bad [expletive deleted, per guidelines], in everyone's minds, making a cooler heroine. Sorry to say, but it's simply the ideals of society, and back when Sigorney Weaver was a kid, smoking was cool and had very little connections with medical problems. Only recent generations have become educated about the negative affectd of tobacco. Therefore, you should all stop leaving comments about how evil tobacco companies are, because they really aren't that bad. Face it, Sigorney Weaver kicks [expletive deleted, per guidelines], and there's nothing you can do about it.

no. scientists can't light up. i'm pretty sure it's imposible. itd be cool tho...