Walt Disney Co. has pledged to ban smoking from all family-oriented Disney brand films and says it will discourage smoking in films from its Touchstone and Miramax studios.

It will become the first major Hollywood studio to eliminate the depiction of smoking.

Disney chief executive Robert Iger made the pledge in a letter to U.S. congressman Edward Markey, who serves on a committee that has studied the effects of images of smoking on children.

Disney's commitment is "groundbreaking," Markey said after making the letter public.

"I am pleased that Disney is embracing a policy that is consistent with the long-term public health of the nation," he said.

He urged other studios to cut smoking out of their film scripts.

Iger also pledged to place anti-smoking public service announcements on DVDs of any future films that feature cigarette smoking and said the company would encourage cinemas to screen anti-smoking messages.

Smoking is rarely shown in recent Disney films, but is scattered throughout its older properties such as 1961's 101 Dalmatians, where Cruella De Vil always has a cigarette holder in hand.

Markey's committee has urged a reduction of smoking in films after studies showed that young people are encouraged to start smoking after seeing film stars smoke.

Tobacco is featured in three-quarters of G, PG and PG-13 rated movies and 90 per cent of R-rated movies, according to research from the American Legacy Foundation, a non-profit created with money from tobacco litigation in the U.S.

Dr. Cheryl Healton, president ofthe American Legacy Foundation, commended Disney's move and urged the company to extend the ban to movies made by Touchstone and Miramax.

In May, the Motion Picture Association of America said it would consider how much smoking there is on screen when it hands out film ratings.