Further curbs on TV, films and internet under consideration as promoters skirt advertising ban
Further curbs on the portrayal of smoking on television, in films and on the internet are to be considered by the government, which said the tobacco industry continued “to find ways” of promoting products despite legislation banning advertising.
The Department of Health in England promised to “continue to work” to reduce the depiction of smoking and tell regulators and the entertainment industry to consider what more could be done.
Guidelines produced by Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, say smoking should generally not be shown before the 9pm TV watershed and should never be glamorised or condoned.
The British Board of Film Classification said its policy took into account the portrayal of drugs.
Action over internet controls, however, will have to be pursued at a global level, potentially through the World Health Organisation.
The government’s tobacco control plan states that the way smoking is portrayed “can create the false impression that tobacco use is a normal, or even glamorous, activity, and rarely shows the real life negative consequences of tobacco use”.
It adds: “Smoking in the media can also give a false impression that tobacco use is more common than it actually is. We remain especially concerned about how these influences affect perceptions of social norms and how they encourage young people to take up smoking.”
The anti-smoking group Ash said it believed the Ofcom guidance was broadly working but that classification of films for under-18s should be more explicit in relation to smoking. Ash said cinemas should make sure there were warnings on the health consequences of smoking in screen advertising and in promotions before films.
A spokesman for the BBFC said a public consultation in 2009 had asked whether portrayal of smoking should be regarded as a classification issue, concluding that “the overwhelming response was, people did not believe it should be.”
He also referred to a Guardian online poll in 2008 where nearly nine in 10 readers did not think film censors should be tough on smoking.
The health department is also concerned about the continued promotion of smoking accessories, such as cigarette papers, at music festivals and other public events.
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