NHS group call to ban children watching 'smoking' films

Young person smoking About 40% of school-age children in Plymouth have admitted smoking regularly

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Children should be banned from watching films like 101 Dalmatians and Lord of the Rings because they show people smoking, a Devon health group has said.

The NHS smoking cessation service wants Plymouth City Council to use its powers to reclassify such films.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) said banning children from films was not the answer.

The council described it as a "complex issue" which should be left to national classification systems and guidelines.

It said the idea of using its powers had been suggested by the stop smoking service as part of a consultation about the council's existing licensing policies.

"The British Board of Film Classification reviewed their guidelines in 2009 and it was not considered appropriate to duplicate their work," a council statement said.

Parental guidance

According to NHS Plymouth, about 40% of school-age children have admitted smoking regularly.

It said research showed children were more likely to start smoking if they had been exposed to certain images, including people smoking on television and in films.

Russ Moody, from the Plymouth Stop Smoking Service, said: "This is not about being a busybody - this is about protecting young people from harm."

He said the aim was not to stop children watching otherwise enjoyable films, but was to put pressure on film makers not to include any smoking scenes.

Sue Clark, from the BBFC, said the board did consider the issue of smoking and detailed guidance was always available to parents.

However, reclassifying a film would only be done if smoking was being "actively encouraged" - something that had never happened so far.

"I can tell you categorically that if we started rating films like Lord of the Rings or like 101 Dalmatians as 18, we would get far more of an outcry than we'd get leaving them in but flagging up the fact there's smoking in them."

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