WHO calls for rating of movies that show tobacco use (1 February 2016)

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) released the third edition of the document ‘Smoke-free movies: from evidence to action’.

Simultaneously, the WHO has called on governments to rate movies depicting tobacco use. The move is intended to prevent children and adolescents from starting to smoke cigarettes and use other forms of tobacco, as movies showing use of tobacco products have enticed millions of young people worldwide to start smoking.

Key Messages:

Restrictions on tobacco advertising are becoming tighter globally. However, movies may depict the use of tobacco products, and are not subject to similar restrictions. Smoking in films can be a strong form of promotion for tobacco products.

Studies in the United States of America have shown that 37% of all new adolescent smokers begin smoking influenced by movie scenes depicting smoking.

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.

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 (20%) and avert 1 million tobacco-related deaths among today’s children and adolescents.

Reasons why smoking in films should be addressed as a public health problem:

  • films reach every corner of the globe,
  • films effectively promote smoking, and
  • films have escaped public health scrutiny until now- they were not considered as ‘advertising’
  • film classification policies shape adolescent exposure

Almost all the epidemiological studies showed a dose–response relation: the more on-screen smoking adolescents see, the more likely they are to smoke.

Several studies show that young people who are otherwise at low risk for smoking (i.e. those who are doing well in school, better off financially, less prone to risk-taking or have nonsmoking parents) are more influenced to smoke by smoking in films than those at higher risk.

Long-term decreases in on-screen smoking parallel decreases in adolescent smoking.


  • requiring age classification ratings for films with tobacco imagery to reduce overall exposure of youth to tobacco imagery in films;
  • certifying in movie credits that film producers receive nothing of value from anyone in exchange for using or displaying tobacco products in a film;
  • ending display of tobacco brands in films; and
  • requiring strong anti-smoking advertisements to be shown before films containing tobacco imagery in all distribution channels (cinemas, televisions, online, etc).
  • making media productions that promote smoking ineligible for public subsidies.

Useful Links:

Link to the press release:


Link to the document ‘Smoke-Free movies: From evidence to action, 3rd Edition'(PDF):


Link to ‘Guidelines for implementation of article 13’ of the WHO FCTC:


Link to GIF ‘Government Action’:


Link to GIF ‘Big Tobacco’:


One thought on “WHO calls for rating of movies that show tobacco use (1 February 2016)

  1. Pingback: WHO calls for rating of movies that show tobacco use (1 February 2016) – Social Stigmas

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