Films accused of driving number of young smokers
Tobacco researchers have attacked "incompetent" film regulators and "insouciant" politicians for failing to act upon evidence suggesting that teenagers are being lured into smoking by seeing it in movies.
The UK Centre for Tobacco Contol Studies' call for a "complete overhaul" of film regulation to protect young people and children "from pervasive and highly damaging imagery" has been rejected despite compelling evidence.
"Smoking in films remains a major and persistent driver of smoking uptake amoung young people which the actions of irresponsible film makers, incompetent regulators and insouciant politians are abjectly failing to control," write Ailsa Lyons and John Britton from the centre, based at the University of Nottingham.
Researchers found that 15-year-olds most exposed to films in which characters smoked were 73 per cent more likely to have tried a cigarette, and nearly 50 per cent more likely to be a current smoker; than those who watched fewest films which feature smoking.
The links are even starker when analysed alongside comparable international studies: viewing smoked-filled films more than doubles the risk of a teenager experimenting with cigarettes and increase the risk of current smoking by two thirds.
Lastest research published
This latest research, published in the Thorax respiratory medicine journal, has triggered calls for films which feature smoking to be automatically classified as 18, and to be regarded as dangerous as illicit drugs and violence.
Smoking has always played a symbolic role in films: think James Dean or John Travolta and his T-Birds in Grease.
Health experts say that smoking in films glamorises a health hazard to impressionable youngsters, even though in most cases it is unnecessary to the plot and characters.
A Department of Culture, Sports and Media spokesman said a total ban on smoking in films would "be a disproportionate interference" and would "undermine the credibility, and therefore the quality, of domestically-produced films".
By Nina Lakhani
The Independent, 20 Sept 2011, page 22
Watch Dr Ailsa Lyons discuss the research findings on BBC Breakfast - BBC News Health 20 Sept 2011 (length 04.23)
Listen to Prof John Britton discuss the research findings on Today - BBC Radio 4 20 Sept 2011 (length 06.37)
Posted on Tuesday 20th September 2011