Anti-smoking campaigners have branded the animated film Rango a public health hazard for encouraging children to take up the habit.
A raft of groups said the PG feature, which opened last Friday, is setting a bad example by featuring more than 60 instances of characters puffing away.
The only other film which came close was 101 Dalmatians in which Cruella de Vil smoked all the time.
Even the lead character, Rango the chameleon, swallows a cigar and breathes fire in the face of an enemy at one point.
The campaigners said that research has shown that children in elementary school who are exposed to on-screen smoking are more likely to take up the habit as teens.
They are calling on film-makers to stop glamorising smoking and cut the cigarettes out of their productions or give the pictures an R rating so children cannot see them.
Rango, from producers Paramount, stands at No.1 in the box office having made $38million during its opening weekend.
It has proved hugely popular with children who have to go with a parent due to the PG rating.
The small print on the advert does mention that smoking will be a feature of the film but not the extent to which it is appears.
A coalition of groups including California-based Breathe have now come out and criticised Parmount.
Cheryl Healton, president of anti-smoking campaigners Legacy, said: ‘While some in the film industry have taken preliminary steps to protect young audiences by making more movies smoke free, Paramount’s decision to include smoking in a movie designed for kids is really troubling.
‘It is a mystery why Hollywood’s masters of storytelling and visual effects have not found a better way to depict their characters without the danger of influencing young people to light up.’
Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, added: ‘While the incidence of smoking in the movies has declined in recent years, the presence of smoking in a youth-oriented cartoon like Rango underscores the need for Hollywood to take stronger, mandatory action to protect our children.
‘It’s time for the Motion Picture Association of America to require an R-rating for movies that depict smoking’.
In 2007, thirty-one state Attorney Generals wrote to Paramount and other movie companies, warning them about the dangers of on-screen smoking.
‘Each time a member of the industry releases another movie that depicts smoking, it does so with the full knowledge of the harm it will bring to children who watch it,’ they wrote.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also publicly stated that smoking in films presents ‘one of the biggest media dangers to children’.
Paramount spokeswoman Virginia Lam said that at no point in Rango does the main character light up.
‘The images of smoking in the film…are portrayed by supporting characters and are not intended to be celebrated or emulated,’ she said.
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