Category Archives: The Big Short

Tobacco disclaimer in “The Big Short”

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We finally got around to seeing “The Big Short” this week, an excellent film that actually manages to be entertaining explaining the mortgage crisis and resulting massive economic collapse that happened in 2007 and 2008. Steven Carell is amazing in this film as an intense ¬†hedge fund manager right on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

Being a tobacco nerd, I noticed something kind of interesting about the movie. It’s very much an R-rated movie, with plenty of F bombs scattered throughout the film and a couple of brief scenes of nudity. (You can show as much smoking as you want in an R-rated movie, smoking is discouraged — not banned — in PG and PG-13 movies.)

However, there is virtually no smoking. There is a very brief scene of smoking in the first two minutes of the movie, flashing back to the boring old days of banking in the 1970s. A couple of bankers are shown smoking in boring-looking banking office. So, it’s historically accurate. Smoking rates were still really high in the 1970s.

the big short
The one very brief smoking scene in “The Big Short.”

After that very short scene, the movie quickly moves to the 1980s and then the 2000s. I don’t believe there was another smoking scene in the entire movie. Which is interesting, because it featured a bunch of richer-than-crap high rollers living it up in Las Vegas, Miami, etc. But, no smoking.

Here’s the part I actually found interesting, and I’ll be paying attention to see if I notice this in any more movies. During the closing credits of “The Big Short,” they showed a disclaimer that the producers did not receive any payments from the tobacco industry for the depictions of smoking in the movie (I got a screen capture of the disclaimer).

I had never seen one of these before. Why I thought it was so interesting is that one of the conditions of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement barred product placement in Hollywood movies 18 years ago. So, supposedly, studios have not been receiving payments from tobacco companies for nearly two decades.


I emphasize supposedly, because a very weird and inexplicable thing happened after the 1998 MSA … depictions of smoking in movies marketed to teens actually went UP, not down. Apparently, movie directors were giving tobacco companies all this advertising free of charge, out of the goodness of their hearts. I’m not being snarky, I really think they were doing this for free. Because Hollywood was extremely stuck in its way when it came to smoking and that cigarettes somehow made characters seem more cool and sophisticated.

Anyway, an interesting observation about “The Big Short.” It didn’t have all that much to do with the actual movie, but this disclaimer was a new thing to me.