The study's press release (which is sub-headed "More stringent controls could help curb young people starting to smoke, say doctors") begins...
UK children are being exposed to millions of tobacco images/messages every week on prime time television, indicates research published online in Tobacco Control.
Yes, they're thinking of the children again. Where does exposure to the sight of tobacco on screen come in the spectrum of fanaticism? Is it fourth-hand or fifth-hand smoke? I lose track.
The authors analysed the weekly content of all five free to air UK TV channels, broadcast between 1800 and 2200 hours on three separate occasions, four weeks apart, in April, May, and June 2010.
A normal bedtime for a child is around 7pm, is it not? So why are these "doctors" looking at TV programmes between 6pm and 10pm in a study that looks at what "UK children are being exposed to"? Could it be because the only programmes which show smoking in any form are "gritty" TV for adults, "reality" TV and the news?
The content was then coded in 1 minute intervals according to whether it was: actual use of a tobacco product; implied use; the presence of tobacco paraphernalia, such as packs and ashtrays; and other references to tobacco, such as a news report.
Implied use of tobacco (sixth-hand smoke?) and the presence of ashtrays in TV programmes—are you kidding me? As for references to tobacco in news reports, there have been plenty of those in recent years thanks to the endless campaign for more and more anti-smoking laws. Are we now being told that these campaigns are counter-productive because they make "the children" aware of tobacco's existence? How funny it would be if this warped logic were taken to its logical conclusion and the anti-smokers were banned from the airwaves.
The break-down of content type showed that actual tobacco use occurred in 245 (1%) of all 1-minute intervals, in 73 (12%) of all programmes, and (0.7%) of all adverts/trailers.
Since 20 per cent of adults are smokers, it appears that smoking is massively under-represented on British television. On the few occasions when it does appear, it is in decades-old repeats, or new stories, or as a shorthand to tell the viewer who the villain is.
This is not the concern of Lyons and company. They do not want to show the world as it is, but as they would like it to be. They have a problem not just with reality TV shows but with reality itself. As ever with these puritans, no indication is given of what a tolerable percentage of on screen "actual tobacco use" would be, but it seems fair to assume that their target is zero. It is not enough for them to ban tobacco advertising. It is not enough for them to stop people smoking tobacco in so-called public places. It is not enough for them to stop retailers displaying the product in shops. The mere depiction of tobacco use, or implied tobacco use, or even inanimate objects which are associated with tobacco use, must be censored, banned and prohibited in the name of the children.
Tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion in TV programmes are banned in the UK, but imagery included for artistic or editorial reasons is exempt.
Yeah, it is. Do you know why? Because state censorship of journalism and the arts is only fit for totalitarian regimes.
We would recommend that future television programming remove gratuitous depictions of tobacco, particularly actual smoking and tobacco branding, from programmes aimed at young people, or, in the UK, scheduled before the 2100 watershed,” they write.
I have long since become weary of these disingenuous prohibitionists getting their foot in the door with the old think-of-the-chidren/watershed plea. Would they be happy with tobacco advertising if it was on after 9pm? No. Are their fellow travellers happy with a pre-watershed ban on alcohol advertising? No. They'll never be happy until every media abolishes every trace of the vice they are fighting.
It is not just the smell of tobacco that displeases them. It is the sight of tobacco and everything associated with it. This study is a valuable reminder we are dealing with censorious neurotics who can never be satiated and can never be appeased. In more enlightened times, their unabashed contempt for freedom and decency would make them outcasts in civilised society. At best, they would be pitied. More often, they would be mocked and scorned. They would, in short, be "denormalised", and so they should be again.