Who is protected by removing
cigarettes from the movies?

Would Cruella De Vil seem as evil without a thin, eerily dainty cigarette hanging from her mouth?

Could Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of Johnny Cash have given viewers an adequate view of the country singer's haggard life without including his addiction to alcohol and drugs?

Some would argue these small inclusions define a character, but after complaints from lobbyists and movie viewers, some Hollywood production companies have made the decision to pull tobacco use from some of their movies.

Where does the censorship stop? If you take out smoking, why not also sex scenes, fights, violence and drug and alcohol use?

Some movies would cease to exist without including these topics.

Pressure from antismoking lobbyists has already convinced six large motion picture studio owners to consider tobacco use when rating their films.

General Electric, the parent company of Universal Pictures, decided a year ago to leave smoking out of youth-related movies produced by the studio or its sister companies, Focus, Rogue and Working Title Films.

The reasoning for the tobacco/film quarrel seems to stem from research revealing children are persuaded by what they see in movies. But shouldn't parents decide what is appropriate for their child's eyes, instead of a film company?

As a child, I was more easily influenced by what my family and those around me were doing, not the false reality of a movie.

I've found reports of many a producer and production company owner who share my sentiments.

Director Bill Condon, who wrote and directed "Dreamgirls," was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Movies are supposed to reflect reality. You're taking away a detail that is one of the more defining aspects of lifestyle."

Not all studios are giving tobacco the big heave-ho, though.

Some film companies who took on the new rules have decided to keep tobacco in their movies if it is part of historical fact.

Whether it's Truman Capote or Jesse James, if they had a two pack-a-day habit, I want to know. Smoking is part of who they were.

Should creativity and history really be given guidelines?

Any writer, producer and movie guru knows it's the little details that distinguish one character from another - the twitches, bad habits and neuroses that individualize a person.

While I don't smoke - in fact, I absolutely despise and would never condone the habit - I'd rather see someone light up on film than sit next to someone on a park bench while they pollute the air and contribute to second-hand smoking.

I think we should tackle the tobacco problems that actually plague the real world before starting in on Hollywood.

Melissa Wilson writes about health for the Daily Post. E-mail her at melissa.wilson@gwinnettdailypost.com.