Since cigarette companies have been banned from advertising on television, some have devised a way to insert their products into movies by paying the movie-maker a fee to have their company logo appear as part of the film - a sort of subtle commercial.
There's nothing illegal about this. The Federal Communications Commission has a rule exempting theatrical films from the requirement that paid product placements be disclosed, even though those movies may show up on the TV screen.But the Center for Science in the Public Interest is asking state attorneys general whether they think this undisclosed placement of commercial products amounts to deceptive advertising that violates state laws.
The center also is planning to ask states whether the placement of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes in youth-oriented films should be prohibited because young people cannot legally buy such products.
Such placement is not widespread, but it does occur. One recent film included 21 shots of an easily identified commercial light beer. A cigarette company paid $42,000 to get its logo into the "Superman II" film.
It may be going too far to require movies to carry announcements that commercial products have been included for a fee or to prosecute film companies under state law for showing a cigarette package in a film that later turns up on television.
A much bigger and more urgent problem is to clean up the sex and violence that saturate most movies today. Most of this has little to do with the plot and is frequently included only for the shock value.
Parents are concerned about what their children see at movie theaters and on television. But glimpses of beer or cigarette logos are midget problems compared to the sexual indecency and violence that disfigure and spoil so much of what passes for modern movie-making.