Stubbing out the puff picture

| | Updated on: Feb 05, 2016
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To prevent children and adolescents from starting to smoke cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, the World Health Organisation has urged governments to rate movies that portray tobacco use.

Movies showing use of tobacco products have enticed millions of young people worldwide to start smoking, according to the WHO “Smoke-free movies: from evidence to action” report, the third edition since its launch in 2009.

“With ever tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions,” said Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s Director for the Department of Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases. Rating films with tobacco scenes and displaying tobacco warnings before films with tobacco, can stop children around the world from being introduced to tobacco products and subsequent tobacco-related addiction, disability and death.

The 180 parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are obliged by international law to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

In 2014, smoking was found in 44 per cent of all Hollywood films, and 36 per cent of films rated for young people. Almost two thirds (59 per cent) of top-grossing films featured tobacco imagery between 2002 and 2014.

That same year, the US Surgeon General reported that adult ratings of future films with smoking would reduce smoking rates among young people in the US by nearly one-fifth and avert one million tobacco-related deaths among today’s children and adolescents.

Armando Peruga, programme manager of WHO’s Tobacco-Free Initiative pointed out that China, for instance, had ordered that ‘excessive’ smoking scenes not be shown in films. And India had implemented new rules on tobacco imagery and brand display in domestic and imported films and TV programmes. More can and must be done, he added.

Published on January 19, 2018

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