"Thank You For Smoking" writer/director Jason Reitman doesn't drink and he doesn't smoke, but the 28-year-old filmmaker appreciates the freedom to make his own decisions.
"I think people should be able to do what they want to do," he says. "Who am I to decide for anybody what they should do? People want to parent other people. What gives them the right?"
That's exactly the type of libertarian attitude pervading Reitman's debut film, a wickedly funny satire of hypocrisy, spin and, as the filmmaker says, "liberal bulls**t." The story is based on Christopher Buckley's novel about tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) fighting a senator (William H. Macy) who attempts to label cigarette packs with a skull and crossbones. Reitman (the son of producer/director Ivan) emphasizes the need for a job such as Naylor's, a man who some see as a villain for representing companies that are accused with peddling cigarettes to kids.
"I believe there's a necessity for his job. Corporations deserve a defender just as much as a murderer does," he says. "I don't believe government should be parenting people, I think parents should be parenting their children and people should be making decisions for themselves."
The film has hit the collective nerve of students across the country.
"It's [college kids] beyond Berkeley. It's D.C., it's Boston, it's Phoenix, it's Atlanta; it's every possible part of this country," he says. "It's this Jon Stewart generation that just gets it. I don't think they've ever seen any honest television. They're being marketed to just as much by politicians and media personalities as they are by actual advertisers."
As for smoking bans such as the one enacted in Chicago, Reitman has mixed feelings.
"I think a business should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to open their business to smokers or non-smokers," he says. "That said, I love going to places where they don't smoke. It's a wonderful thing to go to a restaurant and not come out smelling like cigarettes. It's a heart vs. mind issue."
More than anything, he believes that education, not laws and restrictions, are the way to teach America's youth about the health issues involved with smoking.
"I don't think saying 'Don't smoke' is ever going to work," he says. "I think you have to teach your child to be an independent thinker. I think if you just tell them, 'Don't smoke' that's exactly what they're going to do."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times