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May 3, 2003
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Posted on: Friday, May 2, 2003

Students critique how Hollywood portrays smoking

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hackademy Awards

Teens gave movies a Thumbs Up for showing little or no smoking, or for containing anti-smoking messages. Movies that glamorized smoking got a Thumbs Down.

Thumbs Up

• "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"
• "The Pianist"
• "Two Weeks Notice"
• "Phone Booth"

Thumbs Down

• "Chicago"
• "Gangs of New York"
• "The Hours"
• "The Ring"
• "Anger Management"
• "House of 1000 Corpses"

Catherine Zeta-Jones smoking a cigarette in "Chicago" may look glamorous, but Tanya Rivera of Waipahu High School said such media images are far from the truth.

The 16-year-old junior was among the participants of the fifth "Hackademy Awards," culminating a year-long program aimed at raising youth awareness about depictions of tobacco use in movies.

"When you watch movies, you don't really notice the use of tobacco," Rivera said Wednesday at the Ward Entertainment Complex, where the results were announced. "But when you're given a project like this, it brings it out, like exactly how much is being used. And it is being used a lot."

Students viewed Holly-wood portrayals of smoking in popular movies by giving the flicks either a Thumbs Up for showing little or no smoking, or a Thumbs Down for glamorizing smoking.

The project involved 26 students from Campbell High School, Castle High School, Iolani School, Roosevelt High School and Waipahu High School. It was a collaboration between the state Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Education Program, Consolidated Theatres, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawai'i and the state Department of Education.

The teens used free passes to watch films that were nominated for Academy Awards or are popular with teens. They evaluated the movies using specific project criteria and wrote reviews for their school newspapers.

Criteria included extent and type of tobacco use, who used tobacco, specific brands shown and anti-tobacco messages displayed.

"It's just wonderful that (students) have been making an impact, not only for themselves by becoming knowledgeable, but that they're sharing their findings with the rest of the school," said Kathy Koga, youth education coordinator with the Tobacco Prevention and Education Program.

Although the state Health Department found that smoking is down 21 percent since 1996 among Hawai'i high school seniors, one out of four high school students smokes, Koga said.

Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! is among several campaigns aimed to get the anti-smoking message out to teens. Ohers include the department's "Leave 'um where they're at" commercials, featuring local rapper Mo Luv, and the Healthy Hawai'i Initiative's Start Living Healthy ads.

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