Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

WHO calls for enforceable policies to restrict smoking in movies

1 June 2009 -- Backed by evidence that smoking in movies causes youths to want to light up, the World Health Organization is calling upon countries to enact enforceable policies that would severely restrict such depictions.

The report recommends that all future movies with scenes of smoking should be given an adult rating, with the possible exception of movies that reflect the dangers of tobacco use or that depict smoking by a historical figure who smoked.

Studies show that smoking continues to permeate movies, including those rated as suitable for youth. The policies recommended would help ensure that movies that are marketed to youth do not include tobacco imagery.

"Voluntary agreements to limit smoking in movies have not and cannot work," the report says. It continues, "Logic and science now support enforceable policies to severely restrict smoking imagery in all film media."

"The WHO recommendations are evidence-based and very much needed," said WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Ala Alwan. "Tobacco kills more than five million people per year. Each day approximately 100,000 young people take up smoking. Restricting smoking in movies will go a long way towards stemming the tobacco epidemic."

Studies show that smoking in movies misleads youths into thinking that tobacco use is normal, acceptable, socially beneficial and more common that it really is. Studies also show that such movies rarely portray the harm of tobacco, instead portraying the product as conducive of a cool and glamorous lifestyle.

From Hollywood to Bollywood and beyond, movies are a global commodity. National policies to restrict smoking in movies can produce wide-ranging global benefits.

"Smoking does not belong in youth-rated movies", said Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative. "The more smoking adolescents see on screen, the more likely they are to start smoking. These simple policies can save generations of young people from a lifetime of addiction and an early death from tobacco."

The report also recommends that movie studios should:

  • certify that they received no payoffs from tobacco companies to display tobacco products or their use
  • stop displaying tobacco brands onscreen
  • require strong anti-tobacco advertisements before all movies that have tobacco imagery

The report stresses that enforceable policies to eliminate smoking from movies must form part of any comprehensive tobacco control programme.

Share