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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 May 2007, 04:33 GMT 05:33 UK
Hollywood smoke has global impact
ASH wants tobacco brand identification in films banned
Big screen films in which actors smoke are a dangerous influence on teenagers all over the world, a UK health campaigning group warns.

Studies of US, German and Mexican children show the impact the images can have, claims ASH.

It fears the problem is affecting developing nations and the western world alike, and is calling on the film industry to curb smoking on screen.

Marlboro cigarettes recently asked film studios to avoid showing its products.


ASH would like to prohibit the identification of all tobacco brands in films.

It would also like strong anti-smoking ads to be shown before any film with smoking scenes, and wants future films containing tobacco images to carry an "adult" rating.

But opponents said it was right that films portray real life, and in real life a quarter of adults in the western world smoke.

Latest US research, published in Pediatrics, estimates films delivered 13.9 billion smoking images to American adolescents aged 10-14.

A quarter of the adult population smokes and I don't see why films shouldn't represent that, as long as it's not totally gratuitous
Simon Clark of the smokers' rights group Forest

And research in Germany, just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggested that teens who had seen the most smoking in films were more than twice as likely to have tried smoking than those who saw the least amount.

Researchers in Mexico have reported similar trends there.

Matthew Myers of the US Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, said: "Smoking in the movies is a very serious public health problem. The evidence is now overwhelming that it contributes to youth tobacco use in a major way."

He claimed the film industry around the world had "ignored its responsibility".

Deborah Arnott of ASH said actors were also accountable.

But Simon Clark of the smokers' rights group Forest said there was very little evidence to suggest that children were influenced by watching movies featuring actors smoking.

"Films have to reflect real life. In most of the western world, a quarter of the adult population smokes and I don't see why films shouldn't represent that, as long as it's not totally gratuitous.

"What ASH is calling for is effectively censorship."

He suggested that making smoking taboo could be counterproductive and make it even more attractive to teenagers.

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