Thursday, 24 July 2008

101 Dalmatians and other children's films which feature smoking to get an 18 certificate under city plans

By Jaya Narain
24th July 2008

Children's films such as 101 Dalmatians which show smoking could be hit with an 18 certificate to stop children and young people taking up the habit.

Council leaders will today be asked to use special powers to put 'restrictive' ratings on films which could encourage smoking.

But the move could mean children would be banned from watching classic movies including Pinocchio and Alice In Wonderland.

They would also miss out on James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Popeye, Peter Pan and a host other films and feature-length cartoons.

Cruella De Ville

Classic children's films including 101 Dalmatians, which features Cruella De Ville smoking, could be given an x-rating

Last night pro-smoking groups condemned the move as 'preposterous' and branded it 'the worst kind of nannyism'.

Neil Rafferty for Forest said: 'Filmmakers should not be dictated over the content of their films as it is an attack on freedom of expression.

'It is an absurdity that films such as Casablanca, 101 Dalmatians and numerous others could be given an 18 certificate.'

He added: 'There is a bandwagon rolling on this issue and councils are jumping aboard but it is absolutely ridiculous.

'Children should be warned over the dangers of smoking, but to remove all smokers from sight is beyond the pale.'

Filmmakers and censors have been under increasing pressure to remove smoking scenes from movies after research suggested children were influenced by seeing smoking depicted by fictional characters on the screens.

A British Medical Association report said the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) should take pro-smoking content into account when vetting films, videos and digital material.

It backed plans for a compulsory 18 certificate for films showing smoking and said the law should also be changed to make it compulsory for anti-smoking adverts to be shown before films or TV programmes featuring people lighting up.

Now anti-smoking groups have targeted councils who have the power to act as local censors and alter the BBFC certification of a film.

Sherlock Holmes / Ian Richardson

Sean Connery as James Bond in Never Say Never Again

Bad examples: Sherlock Holmes, played by Ian Richardson, and Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again, have been blamed for encouraging smoking

Today council leaders from the ten regions which form the Association of Greater  Manchester Authorities will discuss the plans.

They will be asked to sign up immediately to three key proposals  - cutting all council funding to theatres and  sports grounds that allow smoking, using planning legislation to force stores to move cigarettes away from checkouts, and slapping higher certificates on films that show smoking.

The plans comes on the back of a report by the Greater Manchester Health Commission which says councils should for the first time 'take into account smoking when giving a classification to film'.

It says: 'For  example, if a local authority becomes aware that the tobacco industry has placed  smoking in a film by paying for an actor/actress to smoke and that this looks as  though the use of the role model could encourage children to smoke, then it  would be reasonable to issue a more restrictive classification.'

But BBFC spokeswoman Laura Shelton said insisted there was no need to classify all films as 18 just because they showed characters smoking.

She said: 'If we see smoking in films which is actively promoting smoking to young people we would take action against them, give them a higher rating if necessary.

'But there is less and less smoking in films these days simply because people are unable to smoke in public locations - you would have to show the characters huddled outside a door.'

Last year, Disney said it would no longer allow characters in its films to smoke - and would 'discourage' smoking in films produced by its other labels, Touchstone and Miramax.

Makers of the last James Bond film, Casino Royale, cut scenes of actor Daniel Craig smoking a cigar in a bid to encourage teenagers not to take up cigarettes.

Daniel Craig later said: 'I can blow someone's head off but I can't light a good cigar.'

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