Films that 'encourage smoking' claim £338m in UK tax creditsImperial College team says government is 'seriously undermining' anti-tobacco campaign
This 'news story'—reported in the Observer—is a variation of a press release that was knocking around last week which gave us the SHOCKING news that some Hollywood films subsidised by the US government depict smoking—a deviant activity which only 1.4 billion people engage in. The message is that this is UNACCEPTABLE and that governments should not provide assistance to film-makers who wish to depict this foul and despicable practice (other foul and despicable practices are okay). Won't somebody please think of the children? etc.
Personally, I find it shocking that Hollywood films receive subsidies. I had assumed it was only the piss-poor, loss-making British efforts that demanded aid from the reluctant tax-payer.
The UK version of this non-story is even lamer than the original. Foreign film-makers working in Britain receive tax relief for whatever reason and some of the movies they make contain images of the most evil habit in the Universe and, therefore, makes kiddies start smoking.
The evidence that teenagers start smoking because they see people (usually villains and perverts) smoking on screen has been entirely created by Californian fruitcake Stanton Glantz, who hilariously insists that half of all smokers take up the habit because they see Gandalf smoking in The Lord of the Rings or something. Even Glantz's opposite number in Australia, the creepy sociologist Simon Chapman, has described this evidence as "epidemiological alchemy" and, as former editor of Tobacco Control, he knows all about that.
Needless to say, the Observer story stems from yet another smokefree movies study from Glantz:
"California's state film subsidy program is undermining its longstanding tobacco control efforts," said lead author Stanton Glantz, PhD, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the Smoke Free Movies Project based at UCSF. "These activities never made sense, but are even more remarkable at a time when health and education programs are being slashed."
"In addition to ending subsidies for films that promote smoking, modernizing the rating system to give smoking films an R rating will provide a market incentive for producers to keep smoking out of movies that they market to adolescents."
Glantz has moved on from his original goal of banning smoking in all but R-rated films, and now wants the government to withdraw financial support from films that depict smoking. Since film-makers want the lowest classification possible and also want subsidies, this is one way of stopping the movie industry from showing the world as it is, and instead make it look like the fantasy that people like Glantz have in their heads. Don't be fooled into thinking this is just about changing the classification system. The aim is to get rid of smoking from all movies. It is censorship, pure and simple.
Glantz's co-author for the latest of his rants on this subject is Christopher Millett—a sociologist who works in obesity prevention. He crunched the numbers with the great mechanical engineer and concluded...
"In the period we looked at, the government gave £48m a year in tax credits to American films that feature smoking, almost all of which were rated suitable for children and adolescents," said Christopher Millett, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. "By comparison, the government spent £23m a year on mass media anti-smoking campaigns."
Note the spurious comparison here, as if the government is spending twice as much promoting smoking as it is trying to prevent it—as if the brief appearance of some villain smoking a cigarette is an equal and opposite reaction to an anti-smoking commercial.
The good news is that Glantz's 'smokefree movies' ruse has so far fallen on stony ground. The WHO and the CDC have been happy to support his demands for censorship, but the film industry generally doesn't like being told what to do by single-issue fanatics and has ignored them (it would open the floodgates to obsessives of all kinds if it didn't). The government has also shown no interest in supporting the zealots and when Glantz got his knickers in a twist over Avatar last year, he made himself a laughing stock.
Excellent. Anything that reminds the public that they are dealing with censorship-loving screwballs who want to turn art into propaganda is to be encouraged so, please continue 'Dr' Glantz. It's delightful.