The World Health Organisation (WHO) is responsible for directing the international health standards within United Nations countries, and as smoking is one of the world’s most avoidable and unnecessary causes of death, it’s one of their biggest targets.
In a new statement, the WHO has suggested automatically banning under 18's from watching any movie depicting scenes with smokers in them. This radical proposal is driven by the idea that if young people aren’t exposed to people smoking – especially the often glamourous ones in film – they may be less likely to pick up the habit.
The announcement was made alongside the release of a survey on films made between 2002 and 2014. In the study, they determined that as much as 60 per cent of PG movies released in that time included cigarette smoking, and 25 per cent across all films.
While the idea certainly has its merits, many people have been quick to point out the high number of films that would suddenly become unavailable. Amongst them are classic children’s favourites such as 101 Dalmations (Cruella de Vil is often surrounded by a cloud of smoke), Pinocchio (Geppetto smokes) and even Lord of the Rings (Gandalf and several Hobbits have pipes).
There have been a number of suggestions for exceptions to the rules and other ways of working around the issue, such as warning labels on films or films that clearly show the negative effects of smoking. A grandfather date, whereby current films could keep their existing rating but new films would come under the new regulations, could also be a way to protect decades of kids’ classics.
The WHO didn’t make any mention of vaping in films, so it’s unclear whether this would fall under the same rules.