The call by the WHO for governments to rate movies that portray tobacco use in a bid to prevent children and adolescents from starting to smoke cigarettes and use other forms of tobacco could help to minimize exposure of children to tobacco use in Africa.
According to a new analysis from the American Cancer Society, “Africa is poised to become the “future epicenter of the tobacco epidemic,” It warns that the number of adults in Africa who smoke could increase to 572 million by 2100, from 77 million today, unless leaders take steps to curb current trends.
The high level of illiteracy and poor awareness about the danger of tobacco smoking has made Africa the playground of tobacco companies and children as well as infants are exposed to tobacco on daily basis.
The WHO Press Release published 1 February 2016, states “Movies showing use of tobacco products have enticed millions of young people worldwide to start smoking”.
“With ever tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions,” says Dr Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s Director for the Department of Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases.
Taking concrete steps, including rating films with tobacco scenes and displaying tobacco warnings before films with tobacco, can stop children around the world from being introduced to tobacco products and subsequent tobacco-related addiction, disability and death.
“Smoking in films can be a strong form of promotion for tobacco products,” adds Dr Bettcher. “The 180 Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are obliged by international law to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”
Studies in the United States of America have shown that on-screen smoking accounts for 37% of all new adolescent smokers. In 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the United States alone, exposure to on-screen smoking would recruit more than 6 million new, young smokers from among American children in 2014, of which 2 million would ultimately die from tobacco-induced diseases.
“With ever tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions.”
In 2014, smoking was found in 44% of all Hollywood films, and 36% of films rated for young people. Almost two thirds (59%) of top-grossing films featured tobacco imagery between 2002 and 2014. That same year, the US Surgeon General reported that adult ratings of future films with smoking would reduce smoking rates among young people in the USA by nearly one-fifth and avert 1 million tobacco-related deaths among today’s children and adolescents.
Many films produced outside of the United States also contain smoking scenes. Surveys have shown that tobacco imagery was found in top-grossing films produced in six European countries (Germany, Iceland, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom), and two Latin American countries (Argentina and Mexico). Nine in 10 movies from Iceland and Argentina contain smoking, including films rated for young people, the report states.