Canadian anti-smoking groups like to strut around crowing that they have consistently been at the forefront of tobacco control policy.
This country pioneered graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, restricting tobacco advertising and adding onerous taxes onto tobacco. We were among the first to have no smoking areas in restaurants. But to out lasting shame, we were remiss when it came to the issue of smoking in the movies.
Now that might have been because our industry was rather small compared to America’s but no more excuses, we are not going to be found lacking even if our press releases are preempted by the great missives of the vaunted Glantz of (to use Chris Snowdon’s spot on phrase) the People’s Democratic Republic of California.
Thanks to Neil Collishaw and the Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada we have even more precise statistics regarding the effect of smoking in the movies on smoking initiation. To wit: “Every dollar in film subsidies may in the end cost Canada $1.70 in societal tobacco losses, the group said”.
Imagine the statistical wizardry involved to come up with that remarkably precise figure. Not $1.67 or $1.74 but $1.70 (and what good luck for the number to come up with a zero at the end).
These are calculated via the flow of Canadian tax subsidies to American film productions and only those that make films that are “intended for young audiences that featured smoking”.
The activist commissioned study had a number of action suggestions which included: “Changing film-rating systems to ensure youth-rated films do not depict smoking except in historical circumstances”. I guess that makes sense since films strive to accurately reflect reality and people only smoked in the past. (Which leads to such bizarre anomalies as Thank You for Smoking where nobody actually smokes, and which logically then should lead to removing any portrayals of tobacco related disease so 80% less subsidies to any films daring to show lung cancer then.)
Another brilliant suggestion was to end all displays of tobacco brands in films and to remove all subsidies that depict smoking in any youth accessible films.
The mind stalls and sputters at the thought of where this is going.
Either you take a Singapore approach to film and remove all potentially objectionable elements (no smoking, no drugs, no crime, no obesity, no harsh talk) or you stop making films for youth. Or maybe you send out more of those vigilante youths who have been snatching the cigarettes from smokers mouths. Enough of that and you can then argue that cigarette free movies are imitating life.
Or perhaps this is even more nefarious than that. Perhaps it is an underhanded assault on e-cigarettes. Smoking in the movies is after all an illusion, so if you can outlaw things that look like smoking, it will be child’s play to outlaw e-cigarettes.
And god forbid these movie going kids start watching television (what! they do?) or read books (well, now that those are all digital it shouldn’t be too hard to remove those references) or even leave the theatre and see smokers on the streets.
Sweeping cigarettes under the red carpet is not the answer.
-Paul L. Bergen