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Smoking in 'Avatar' Earns Film 'Black Lung' Award

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Antismoking activists criticized the blockbuster film “Avatar” for depicting one of its central characters as a heavy smoker, but director James Cameron said the critics are missing the point he was trying to make about maintaining healthy habits, the New York Times reported Jan. 4.

“Avatar” earned a “black lung” award from SceneSmoking.org because a character played by Sigourney Weaver — who otherwise is a laudable figure working to collect data on a new world and protect its environment — is shown smoking. “This is like someone just put a bunch of plutonium in the water supply,” said Stanton A. Glantz, head of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco.

However, Cameron said that, “from a character perspective, we were showing that Grace doesn't care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in video games.”

Cameron called smoking “a filthy habit which I don't support, and neither, I believe, does 'Avatar.' ” On the other hand, he said, “I don't believe in the dogmatic idea that no one in a movie should smoke. Movies should reflect reality. If it's O.K. for people to lie, cheat, steal and kill in PG-13 movies, why impose an inconsistent morality when it comes to smoking? I do agree that young role-model characters should not smoke in movies, especially in a way which suggests that it makes them cooler or more accepted by their peers.”

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