Miércoles 6 de Agosto de 2008, Ip nº 241

Danger, this film has smoking scenes
Por Nigel Hawkes

Doctors’ leaders called for curbs on smoking scenes in films and in the media yesterday as they pressed for tougher government action to reduce the demand for cigarettes.

Film censors should take into account pro-smoking elements in films when issuing a licence, and films portraying smoking in a “positive” light should be preceded by anti-smoking advertisements, the British Medical Association said.

Also suggested are: white cigarette packets showing only a government anti-smoking message; a reduction in the number of shops permitted to sell cigarettes through a licensing system; a ban on cigarette-vending machines; and a minimum price for cigarettes.

The report, Forever Cool, said that the films of the 1940s were full of people smoking, but between 1950 and 1990 portrayals of smoking decreased, together with the decline of smoking among the general population. Since 1990 the trend had gone into reverse, with positive images of smoking increasing in frequency, particularly in films aimed at young people. A poster of Uma Thurman smoking in Pulp Fiction, and a picture of actor Billy Bob Thornton drawing deeply on a cigarette on the cover of a 2005 edition of Life magazine, illustrate the theme.

Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s head of science and ethics, also singled out the film Independence Day, in which she said Will Smith lit a cigar every time he dispatched an alien.

Professor Nathanson said that last year’s smoking ban in public places in England had cut the number of smokers. “Tens of thousands have given up, but smoking is still at high levels and we still have children starting to smoke. The decline in smoking was very fast 20 years ago, but it has slowed. And experience in Ireland, which introduced the smoking ban earlier, shows that people can begin to slip back into smoking.

“In England, 9 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds are regular smokers. By the age of 15, 20 per cent are smoking, and in 20 to 24-year-olds it is 31 per cent. The initiation age for smoking is an age before it is even legal to buy cigarettes, but children get ready access.”

Professor Nathanson said that if television “soaps” had a lot of people in them who smoke, “then some character should die of a smoking-related disease”. That, she said, would be a logical plot development. “Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable ill-health and death in the UK and children will only be protected from it when the UK is tobacco-free.

“We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people, and the UK Government should act now to introduce policies that will limit young people’s exposure to pro-smoking imagery, thereby helping to prevent a new generation falling victim to tobacco addiction.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said that it was already looking into some of the issues. “Protecting children from smoking is a priority and taking away temptation is one way to do this. We recently launched a consultation looking at how we can stop children smoking,” she said.

“Proposals and ideas include removing branding and logos from all tobacco packaging; having a minimum pack size of 20; restricting access to vending machines; restricting the display of products in shops, which may include putting cigarettes under the counter.”

  07/07/2008. Times Online.