The sinister sounding UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies has produced a report calling for the extension of film censorship.

It demands an 18 Certificate for any film where smoking is portrayed.

The basis for this demand is a survey asking young people whether they smoke or not and which films they have seen.

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© Unknown
'The link between smoking in movies and adolescent smoking is robust'. Bridget Jones is one of many famous characters who smoke.
It concludes: 'The link between smoking in movies and adolescent smoking is robust and transcends different cultural contexts. Limiting young people's exposure to movie smoking could have important public health implications.'

It says there is a a 'well-documented association between exposure to movie smoking and trying smoking among the youth in the USA and Germany.'

Youngsters from various countries, including the UK, were given a list of films and asked to tick which they had seen and how often.

Meanwhile 'trained coders review each movie and count the number of occurrences of onscreen tobacco.

A tobacco occurrence is counted whenever a major or minor character handles or uses tobacco in a scene or when tobacco use is depicted in the background (eg 'extras' smoking in a bar scene).

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Glamourising: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's made cigarette holders stylish.
Occurrences are counted each time the tobacco use appears on the screen.'

Reading the research there didn't seem to be any effort to distinguish between cause and effect.

What if those who smoke tended to prefer going to films where smoking was portrayed? The evidence seems pretty shaky.

There is also no thought put into whether showing someone smoking would be likely to encourage such behaviour.

This proposal would 'protect' 17-year-olds from the danger of watching such films as the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians.

But is Cruella de Vil's puffing on her cigarette holder amidst much evil cackling really going to encourage us to light up?

Does Bridget Jones desperately lighting up another cigarette make us feel this is chic stylish behaviour we wish to emulate?

Thankfully a Department of Culture, Sports and Media spokesman has already made clear the Government will give this madness a miss.

A spokesman said: 'The Government believes the current arrangements provide sufficient control on the depiction of smoking in films and a total ban would be a disproportionate interference.

This action would undermine the credibility, and therefore the quality, of domestically produced films.'

But this is not just about whether or not public health could be improved or the quality of film making impeded.

This is about liberty and truth. When images of Churchill or Brunel smoking are airbrushed there is an instinctive revulsion that evidence should be falsified in our country.

I don't smoke and I prefer it if others don't. But thought control is the wrong way to pursue tobacco control.