Smoking in films R18?

British public health experts have made a call for films depicting smoking to be classified as R18, but a New Zealand academic thinks such an action may not be the solution.

In an editorial in the medical journal Thorax, public health researchers suggest that placing age restrictions on films depicting smoking may be a way of preventing youth uptake. They point to several studies published in the same issue of the journal as evidence, stating:

“These new studies thus provide further and urgent evidence in support of calls — as yet unheeded — for a radical overhaul of film classification to protect all children and young people from this pervasive and highly damaging imagery.”

An expert on youth smoking, Dr Judith McCool from Auckland University’s School of Population Health, disagrees with the research. She told TVNZ’s Breakfast show:

“These studies sound very convincing in terms of what they identify, but it’s how you interpret it that’s important.” She argued that studies focusing just on exposures – instances of seeing smoking on screen – didn’t give enough credit to teenagers.  Adolescents will not start smoking just because they see it in a film, she said.

You can watch Dr McCool’s full interview with Petra Bagust here.

The UK National Health Service site Behind the Headlines site also has an extensive general summary of the research and how it was interpreted in the media, available here.