All the movies showing characters lighting up are likely to automatically get an “18-rating” in Birmingham. Birmingham Primary Care Trust (PCT) pushes for an ordinance to rate smoking films as 18-rated to prevent minors from seeing smoking and getting attracted to cigarettes.
According to the statistics by Birmingham Health Department, more than five thousand local teenagers under 18 years are on-and-off smokers. PCT states that almost a half of them were lured to pernicious habit after seeing their favorite celebrities smoking on big screen.
In case the ordinance is passed, the municipal council would be entitled to classify such films among 18-rated in conformity with the Licensing Act of 2003. Nevertheless, the city lawmakers underlined the fact that they have not come to a decision yet, and all residents should take part in public hearings and share their opinion with the authorities. The hearings are planned to start later this summer.
Under the ordinance, classic black-and-white films showing smoking scenes will not be subject to review, as the regulation would only be applied to the latest films, release after its approval. Councilor Ronald Woodstock, head of Licensing Committee stated that the proposal should be thoroughly examined before its consideration.
He said the PCT have presented their report to the Council several months ago, claiming that high underage smoking rates in the City could be explained by the high likeability by teenagers to pick smoking after seeing film characters smoking and starting to think that the habit is fashionable.
However, he added that they need to examine the reports of other organizations on that topic before making a final decision. In conformity with the 2003 Licensing Act, local authorities are entitled to rate films which are showed only across their territories. The Birmingham PCT issued a report, stating that the smoking rates are 29 percent, 7 percent higher than the national level, therefore, council should act instantly to reduce underage smoking.
In addition the PCT report cites results of similar reports in other countries that concluded the smoking in films has been one of the major factors causing minors to try cigarettes. Sue Carlyle, spokesperson for British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) declared that although the council has the statutory authority to re-rate movies, the public was likely to oppose that re-classification.
She stated that according to a survey they have recently completed, the public denied smoking to become an issue for 18 rating for films. She added that BBFC usually classifies a film only upon thoroughly examining its content, message and appeal. The BBFC would definitely consider smoking as an issue for re-rating only in case smoking would be heavily advertised in that film, what they haven’t seen for a long time.
Ms. Carlyle also said that in case some parents think their children should not watch the film that has few smoking characters, they should simply switch their TV to another channel.