29th March 1933: American actor Clark Gable
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” said Clark Gable while smoking a cigar in the 1939 Hollywood classic Gone With The Wind.
One can remember seeing many silver-screen icons smoking on screen but recently actors, whether it is Gandalf (played by Ian McKellen) smoking a pipe in Lord of the Rings or Audrey Hepburn’s famous pose holding a cigarette in Breakfast at Tiffanys, have been scrutinised for sending out a wrong message to their viewers, reports bbc.co.uk.
According to research published by the Thorax, a medical journal co-owned by the British Thoracic Society films that depict actors smoking should be handed an automatic 18 certificate. The report, produced by researchers from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, called for movies that feature smoking to attract a similar age classification to those that portray sex or violence. Their study of more than 5,000 adolescents found that 15-year-olds who saw the most films showing actors smoking were 73 per cent more likely to have tried it than those who had seen the fewest.
In response to the latest report, the British Board of Film Classification Director David Cooke said: “Glamorising smoking has been included as a classification issue in our published classification guidelines. There is, however, no public support for automatically classifying a PG film at 18 just because it happens to contain a scene of smoking.”
On this side of the globe, the Indian government has been trying to introduce guidelines to ban smoking in films for a few years now. Finally, in October 2011, the government issued a notification, under the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Rules 2004, ordering all films, as well as TV programmes, to have health warnings at the beginning and in the middle of the film, reports Times of India.
But, the industry isn’t convinced that the measures will be effective in discouraging the youth from taking up smoking. Instead, says director Mahesh Bhatt, “It’ll only lead to an unnecessary break in the film-maker’s tale.” In 2005, Mahesh Bhatt filed a petition challenging the last notified Act banning smoking in films. On the basis of that petition, the Delhi High Court struck down the ban on smoking in films in 2009. After that, till the new notifications were announced on October 27 this year (effective November 14), the government had been trying to amend the rules to make them ‘more practical to implement’, reported Times of India.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2011.
Clark Gable, c. 1930s –