LOS ANGELES – Cigar-loving Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday that children need to be warned often about the health dangers of smoking, but Hollywood shouldn't feel pressured to cleanse cigarettes and cigars from films aimed at youngsters.
Despite research that shows big-screen scenes of tobacco use can tempt kids to light up, the Republican governor said filmmakers need artistic freedom, particularly in historical settings. He scoffed at the notion that someone would play Winston Churchill, the British wartime leader, without his trademark stogie in hand.
"I personally don't believe that we should erase cigarettes in movies. I don't believe that we should erase when someone smokes a cigar in a movie. I think that we should remind people and kids all the time about the dangers of smoking," the governor said.
"To all the sudden tell actors not to smoke a cigarette in a movie when they portray a character ... is ludicrous. I think this is going too far," he added.
The governor's comments came at a news conference where major studios announced they will include anti-smoking announcements on millions of youth-rated DVDs of motion pictures that include smoking scenes. The public service announcements will appear on films rated G, PG and PG-13.
The message: Movies might glamorize smoking, but don't start yourself.
Walt Disney Co. began including anti-smoking messages on certain DVDs earlier this year. Other studios joining in are Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.
The agreement involving the studios and the state of California was brokered by the Entertainment Industry Foundation — a philanthropy. The state developed the 30-second announcements for the DVDs, which will appear in the opening minutes.
Schwarzenegger began his love affair with cigars years ago on Cape Cod, where he smoked with his future father-in-law, Sargent Shriver. However, he warns his four children not to follow his example.
"Even though you see me every so often light up a cigar, I let them know that don't ever try it," he told reporters.
Schwarzenegger is well known for his fondness for premium cigars.
Although officials repeatedly cited the ravages of smoking, none suggested that studios should be strong-armed into scrubbing images of tobacco use from films.
Kim Belshe, the state Health and Human Services secretary, said research shows kids exposed to images of smoking in films have a higher likelihood of using tobacco.
She praised studios for including the anti-smoking messages on the DVDs, but added, "I really don't see my role ... to be dictating the content of movies."
The film industry has long faced criticism over the prevalence of smoking in movies. In June, the advocacy arm of the American Medical Association complained about depictions of smoking in the PG-13-rated film "The Incredible Hulk."