In the early days of cinema smoking was considered healthy and was even advertised by doctors, a famous Camel cigarettes advert from 1949 actually claimed that more doctors smoked Camel cigarettes than any other brand. So it’s clear that smoking never held much health concern during this time period – it is only recently in the western world that smoking has come to be viewed negatively.
Smoking was always used in cinema to create an atmosphere, most famously in crime noir films, such as Humphrey Bogart classics – using cigarettes to frame a character and give them a mysterious aura. With women in film, smoking was used to give them an air of sensuous and seductive sexuality. So smoking was a very important tool to the filmmaker. This has all changed in recent years with the growing anti-smoking movement, in more modern films you are less likely to see smoking, and in most cases smoking is there to suggest a negative character or a criminal.
A recent study looked into some of the top box office films released between 2001 – 2005 that depicted smoking, teenagers that saw the most films depicting smoking were 73% more likely to have tried a cigarette than those exposed to the least. And they were 50% more likely to be a current smoker. Because of these results anti-smoking movements want to alter film classification to include smoking, along with drug use and bad language.
But is it really necessary to add another classification to films just because of smoking? There aren’t many family films released today that feature a heavy smoker. Smoking is generally only seen in films that have an age rating over 15. Smoking isn’t in a film to encourage people to smoke, it is there to set the scene and give characters extra dimensions. Imagine a scene in a crime film, its dark, 4 guys are hunched over a poker table playing cards – without me suggesting it, you’ll have automatically assumed there is a smokey atmosphere because it’s a cinematic scene setting classic.
It seems that more and more these days people have to be able to blame bad habits on anything other than themselves. If I spend all day gambling on Bgo.com can I then say it’s because I watched “Casino” or “Oceans Eleven”? Or should I just admit I enjoy the thrill and find it enjoyable? It seems to be a similar principle that anti-smoking organisations seem to be taking. There is no denying the influence that film has on us, but it seems like film is being a bit of a scapegoat to blame statistics on, rather than anti-smoking campaigns not being as effective as people would like them to be.