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Smoking: Television

Volume 458: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent assessment her Department has made of the impact of people smoking on television and in films on young people's decision on whether or not to start smoking; and if she will make a statement; (125008)

(2) what steps her Department is taking to ensure that smoking is not encouraged by its depiction in television programmes and films; and if she will make a statement.

The Department has not made a recent assessment of the impact of people smoking on television and in films on young people's decision on whether or not to start smoking.

The Government have taken steps to reduce the impact of smoking on young people. The glamorising of tobacco products through advertising, promotion and sponsorship as well as through their depiction in the media has been shown to be linked to increased smoking rates. The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 provides a comprehensive ban on advertising promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.

The Office of Communications code covers the portrayal of smoking in television programmes. This code specifically requires that the portrayal of smoking should not be featured in children’s programmes, and included only when there is a strong editorial case for inclusion. In other programmes likely to be widely seen by young people, smoking should be included only where context or dramatic veracity requires it. In such programmes, smoking should not be prominently featured as a normal and attractive activity.

In films, the independent British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) undertook a public consultation exercise to update its guidelines on granting classifications for films which can be seen by children. The public expressed some concern at the depiction of smoking in films. The BBFC issued updated guidelines in 2005, which included the following:

No work taken as a whole may promote or encourage the use of illegal drugs. Any detailed portrayal of drug use likely to promote or glamorise the activity may be cut. Works which promote or glamorise smoking, alcohol abuse or substance misuse may also be a concern, particularly at the junior categories.

The BBFC apply these guidelines to cinema films, as well as videos and computer games.