The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a third edition of its report “Smoke-free Movies: From Evidence to Action,” suggesting that movies with excessive smoking scenes be rated to make it suitable for children audience and to discourage children from getting enamored with smoking or getting hooked on it.
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WHO’s reports have established a link between new children taking up smoking after watching films that strongly depicts smoking in several scenes, citing that such movie scenes induce young ones to try out smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products.
“With ever tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s Director for the Department of Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases.
Health experts think rating films with tobacco scenes and displaying tobacco warnings before showing smoking scenes in movies would go a long way to discourage children from trying out smoking, and also prevent tobacco-related addiction, disability, and death.
“Smoking in films can be a strong form of promotion for tobacco products,” Dr. Bettcher added. “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.”
Previous studies in the US blame smoking in movies for 37% new teenage smokers, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 predicted that 6 million new teenagers would take up smoking in the United States, and that nearly 2 million from these would ultimately die from tobacco-related diseases.
Smoking scenes were rife in 44% of Hollywood movies released in 2014, and 59% of top-grossing films released between 2002 and 2014 had significant tobacco-smoking scenes. The US Surgeon General in 2014 noted that 1 million smoking-related deaths would be averted among children and teenagers if proper ratings were done for films containing smoking scenes.
To this extent, the WHO Smoke-Free Movie report according to the regulations of Article 13 of the WHO FCTC advises several measures to dealing with this issue, including –
• requiring age classification ratings for films with tobacco imagery to reduce overall exposure of youth to tobacco imagery in films;
• certifying in movie credits that film producers receive nothing of value from anyone in exchange for using or displaying tobacco products in a film;
• ending display of tobacco brands in films; and
• requiring strong anti-smoking advertisements to be shown before films containing tobacco imagery in all distribution channels (cinemas, televisions, online, etc).
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“China has ordered that ‘excessive’ smoking scenes should not be shown in films. India has implemented new rules on tobacco imagery and brand display in domestic and imported films and TV programmes. But more can and must be done,” said Dr. Armando Peruga, programme manager of WHO’s Tobacco-Free Initiative.