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Censors urged to stop children seeing movie-star smokers.

CHILDREN should be banned from watching films in which their favourite actors smoke, in a bid to stop them taking up the habit.

In a reaction to the number of Hollywood stars lighting up on the silver screen antismoking groups have called for film censors to restrict children's entry to smoking movies.

Such a move could see films re-classified as 15 or even 18, regardless of their sex and violence count, because characters are seen lighting up.

Children's favourites such as 101 Dalmatians (U), classic films, including Titanic and Romeo and Juliet (12), and new flicks portraying cigar-totting bad guys could fall foul of any move to protect youngsters from the lure of smoking.

The calls for such film restrictions come as a new US study claims that cinema-loving teenagers are three times as likely to start smoking as a result of watching actors smoke on screen than those who rarely watch movies.

The research is the latest piece of academic research to make a link between exposure to smoking in films to smoking rates among children.

Author Madeline Dalton, said, ``Movie images, like commercial advertising, associate smoking with celebrities and depict it as an attractive behaviour.

``In popular contemporary movies smoking is frequently associated with characteristics many adolescents find appeal-ing - such as toughness, sexiness and rebelliousness.''

The research, published onThe Lancet's website, fol-lowed 3,500 adolescents who had never tried smoking and measured their exposure to smoking in films.

The team from Dartmouth Medical School, New Hampshire, found that smoking initiation increased with greater exposure to smoking in movies - 17% of the teenagers in the highest category for exposure to smoking in movies had tried smoking compared with only 3% among those in the lowest category for movie-smoking exposure.

Dr Dalton added, ``Our results provide strong evidence that viewing smoking in movies promotes smoking initiation among adolescents.''

The findings have fuelled calls for films to be reclassified to restrict the level of smoking children are exposed to.

In the US campaigners believe films featuring smoking should be classified R - no entrance to under-17s unless accompanied by an adult. And in the UK anti-smoking campaigners want such films to be classified 15.

Deborah Arnott, director of ASH, said, ``We don't want to censor directors by banning smoking outright in films but we want them to be made aware of the impact they have on young people.

``We believe that the British Board of Film Classification should take smoking into account when classifying films.

The Board already takes into account issues such as bad language but smoking causes far more harm.''

But The Western Mail's and S4C's film critic Gary Slaymaker, said, ``This is political correctness gone mad. In terms of excessive violence, racism and negative stereotypes of women, smoking is very low on the list.''

And chief executive of the media agency for Wales, Sgrin, Berwyn Rowlands, added, ``The whole idea of reclassifying films based on whether someone is smoking or not is laughable.

``Films are meant to reflect what happens in society and smoking is an issue for soc i e t y. ''


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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 10, 2003
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