The CEA has today called on Government to reject proposals from the British Medical Association (BMA) which would require the cinema industry to take steps to ‘de-glamorise’ smoking.

Amongst the proposals made by the BMA in their report to Government this week were that:

  • the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) should take ‘pro-smoking’ content into account when classifying films, in particular considering the award of higher classification to any film deemed to contain ‘positive’ images of smoking; and
  • cinemas should be required to show anti-smoking adverts immediately before those films which were similarly perceived to contain ‘pro-smoking’ content.

The CEA very much supports the BBFC’s view that the proposal around film classification is both unnecessary and disproportionate. BBFC guidelines already allow them to take into account the potential impact of scenes of smoking on audiences when deciding on a film certificate.

An approach along the lines the BMA suggest would result in wide inconsistencies from film to film, requiring an ‘18’ certificate for popular recent releases such as Atonement and even perhaps for famous films from the 40s, 50s and 60s, when different attitudes to smoking prevailed, such as Casablanca or Now, Voyager.

The CEA also rejects the idea that cinemas be required to show anti-smoking adverts before films considered to contain ‘positive’ smoking content.

Commenting on the proposal, CEA Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

“It’s not at all clear why cinema should be singled out here, and why film audiences should be required to sit through public education advice of this sort rather than those sitting down in front of the TV to watch Ashes to Ashes or even Eastenders.

If the intention is to extend this approach to TV programming, then it should also cover other platforms such as video games, which have arguably as great an influence on young people. The impracticality of what is proposed then becomes even clearer.

Of course Government has a role in promoting healthy living and ensuring that those who wish to stop smoking are supported in doing so, and that others are dissuaded from taking it up.

UK cinemas remain fully mindful of changing public attitudes to smoking. In the vast majority of cases, cinemas were non-smoking environments (on health as well as customer comfort and safety grounds) for a significant number of years prior to the 2007 legislation covering smoking in public places.

But there is a fundamental issue of consumer choice here. The inescapable fact is that smoking tobacco – for all the health issues – remains a legal activity, and one from which the Exchequer continues to take a significant income.

Until such time as that is no longer the case, the kind of steps the BMA is suggesting with regard to cinema seem both inappropriate and ill-judged. We call on Government to reject them as such.”