All hot air

Was the rumour of an 18 certificate for films featuring cigarettes just smoke and mirrors?

by Jennie Kermode

Many film fans were concerned last week by rumours that the Scottish Executive planned to put an 18 certificate on all films showing non-negative images of smoking. However, now that the smoke has cleared, the truth is looking a little different.

Rumours the Executive planned to prevent children from seeing films featuring smoking developed after a question in the Scottish Parliament put by the SNP's Kenneth Gibson.

Film certification is not a devolved matter and guidelines for it are laid down by the parliament at Westminster, so Gibson asked Health Minister Shona Robison whether her administration would make recommendations to Westminster that this change in policy should be applied.

Robison advised him that the Executive's strategy on smoking is still under consideration, and that film certification is one of the issues under discussion, but no decisions have been made at this time.

Ruth Jays of the Executive's health communications group told Eye For Film that there is concern over evidence which suggests that media images of smoking can have a significant influence on young people's smoking habits.

The Executive is hoping to reduce positive portrayals of smoking (eg: smoking by stars whom young people might wish to imitate) and increase negative ones (showing the damage which smoking can cause). However, as no policy has yet been developed, media pronouncements about the consequences for the film industry are premature.

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