WHO Suggests Warning for Films Showing Tobacco Use

World Health Organization updates Smoke-Free Movies report

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GENEVA -- The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on governments to rate movies that portray tobacco use and to display tobacco warnings before films with tobacco use.

Movies showing use of tobacco products have enticed millions of young people worldwide to start smoking, according to the new WHO Smoke-Free Movies: From Evidence to Action report, the third edition since 2009.

Click on the link below to view the full report.

“With ever-tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s director for the department of prevention of noncommunicable diseases. “Smoking in films can be a strong form of promotion for tobacco products. The 180 parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are obliged by international law to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”

According to WHO, studies in the United States have shown that on-screen smoking accounts for 37% of all new adolescent smokers. In 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the United States alone, exposure to on-screen smoking would recruit more than six million new, young smokers from among American children in 2014.

In 2014, smoking was found in 44% of all Hollywood films, said the report, and 36% of films rated for young people. Almost two thirds (59%) of top-grossing films featured tobacco imagery between 2002 and 2014.

Many films produced outside of the United States also contain smoking scenes. Surveys have shown that tobacco imagery was found in top-grossing films produced in six European countries (Germany, Iceland, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom), and two Latin American countries (Argentina and Mexico). Nine in 10 movies from Iceland and Argentina contain smoking, including films rated for young people, the report states.

The WHO Smoke-Free Movie report, in line with the guidelines of article 13 of the WHO FCTC, recommends policy measures including:

  • Requiring age classification ratings for films with tobacco imagery to reduce overall exposure of youth to tobacco imagery in films.
  • Certifying in movie credits that film producers receive nothing of value from anyone in exchange for using or displaying tobacco products in a film.
  • Ending display of tobacco brands in films.
  • Requiring strong anti-smoking advertisements to be shown before films containing tobacco imagery in all distribution channels (cinemas, TV, online, etc.).

In addition, the report also recommends making media productions that promote smoking ineligible for public subsidies.

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