British doctors want no smoking stars in films

July 7th, 2008 - 12:50 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss

London, July 7 (IANS) The Anbumani Ramadoss-Shahrukh Khan public spat over reel smoking in India has now found an echo in Britain with doctors asking for censoring of puffing scenes in films. Film stars smoking on screen should invite the same censoring as scenes of extreme sex or violence, the British Medical Association (BMA) says. It wants films with smoking scenes to get a tighter classification, restricting them to older audiences.

The association also calls for new curbs on the promotion of smoking in the media and says the government should make England smoke-free by 2035. Its call will become official at its annual conference in Edinburgh next week.

Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s head of science and ethics, says cigarettes are made to appear a symbol of success, encouraging teenagers to feel that smoking is normal.

Nathanson says rather than using pictures of Kate Moss or Amy Winehouse having a cigarette, photos of them not smoking should be used.

Though the portrayal of smoking in films had declined from 1950 to 1990, it has since increased.

The poster for the 1994 movie “Pulp Fiction”, showing a sultry Uma Thurman smoking, is a “gift to the tobacco industry” and an example of the sort of image the BMA wants to outlaw. In the US, smoking has increased in films targeted at teenagers since 2002, the BMS says.

According to The Independent, the BMA says films showing smoking in a positive light should also be preceded by an anti-smoking advert. A similar strategy to curb the promotion of cigarettes on television had led to the voluntary withdrawal of tobacco advertising in the 1970s.

Health campaigners welcome the BMA’s call, but pro-choice smoking campaign group Forestd says that “assessing the content of films is a kind of censorship”, reports the Scotsman.

Britain has one of the most comprehensive tobacco control policies in Europe with a ban on smoking in public places, an advertising ban, regular tax increases, an increase in the minimum age for buying cigarettes (from 16 to 18) and health warnings on packets.

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