Every single film which happens to show characters smoking should be automatically given an over 18 certification, the World Heath Organisation (WHO) has demanded.
In their new report, Smoke-free Movies, published today, the international body said that 44 per cent of all Hollywood films showed smoking in 2014.
Hoping to influence the industry and policy makers in the lead up to the Oscars this year, they insisted that censoring the activity in movies was the “last frontier” for those wanting to control people’s smoking habits.
Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, said: “With ever tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions.”
Adding: “Smoking in films can be a strong form of promotion for tobacco products.”
The WHO cited studies claiming that smoking in films was responsible for nearly 40 per cent of youngsters taking up smoking. One report, by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimated that films were responsible for six million young people taking up the habit in 2014 alone.
Dr Armando Peruga, the programme manager of the WHO’s tobacco-free initiative, said that attempts to persuade film companies to comply with two other recommendations of the report without legislation, had largely failed. The implicit recommendation being, that only legislation and regulation, such as age certifications, would advance their ends.
“In some films the percentage of tobacco scenes are far greater than you would see in the society in which the film is set”, he argued.
Simon Clark, the director of smoker’s group Forest, told the Guardian: “Disney has a no smoking policy for its PG 13-rated films, and that’s fine, but films aimed at older audiences must be allowed to reflect real life, not some sanitised smoke-free world.
“Penalising films that portray smoking by giving them a rating equivalent to an 18 certificate is a clumsy and unnecessary attempt at censorship.”