Smoking on Network TV?

If you’re a fan of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, then you may have seen last night’s show. Two-time Oscar winner, Sean Penn, sparked up not one — but two cigarettes — during his interview with Stephen Colbert. What’s this? Smoking on network TV?

It’s true. Not long after Penn walked onto the stage to a round of applause, he took his seat and almost immediately went into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette, and put a flame to it. In true TV form, Colbert responded by pulling a glass ashtray out from under his desk, which he then placed before Penn.

Isn’t smoking on Network Television outlawed?

Yes — but characters on TV programs still continue to smoke.

Not too long ago, cigarette companies were some of television’s biggest advertisers with tobacco products featured prominently on screen. The very first prime-time television news program was said to be sponsored by Camel cigarettes. But, throughout the 1960s, new studies were published. The studies shed light on the dangers associated with traditional cigarette smoking and the use of tobacco products.

With the release of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health published in 1964, a massive shift took America by storm. The change influenced broadcast television. In 1967, the FCC required television stations to air anti-smoking advertisements free of charge. By 1970, Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which banned the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio. According to parentstv.org, the last cigarette commercial aired on Jan. 1, 1971.

But even still, characters on TV programs continued to smoke.

Why did Sean Penn promote smoking on network TV?

Sean Penn admitted to Stephen Colbert that he took a sedative before the show aired. He said this as he proceeded to light a cigarette. While cigarettes aren’t considered sedatives, isn’t the purpose of smoking a cigarette to promote relaxation? While no one really knows what led the actor to promote smoking on network TV, what we do know is that Sean Penn looked a little disheveled as he took deep inhales from his cigarette.

According to People.com, Colbert asked Penn to reconsider his use of cigarettes by saying,

“Please don’t smoke anymore. I don’t mind. My parents smoked when I was a child so it gives me happy memories to smell cigarette smoke, but you know we want you to be around for a long time and those things are bad for you.”

Especially relevant: last week’s Truth Tuesday.

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Andrew Figgs

Photography Major from Western Washington University . I joined MBV back in December 2014 and am happy to be working in an industry focused on helping others.

  • evan says:

    Colbert, what a load!

  • Jesse says:

    WTF is the big deal ??? It’s Sean Penn for the Christs Sakes.

  • arsenic says:

    who cares, let him smoke a whole pack, i remember an interview with joey bishop when he said he used to smoke 5 packs during the shooting of one show

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