Section 5: Harm and Offence

Alcohol, Smoking, Solvent Abuse and Illegal Drugs


We must balance the need to reflect realistically the range of public attitudes and behaviour with the danger of encouraging potentially damaging or illegal behaviour, particularly amongst children. 


The use of illegal drugs, the abuse of drugs, smoking, solvent abuse and the misuse of alcohol:

  • must not be featured in content made primarily for children unless there is strong editorial justification
  • must generally be avoided and must not be condoned, encouraged or glamorised in any programmes broadcast pre-watershed or on radio when children are particularly likely to be in our audience, or in online content likely to appeal to a significant proportion of children, unless there is editorial justification
  • must not be condoned, encouraged or glamorised in other content likely to be widely seen, heard or used by children and young people, unless there is editorial justification. 


We should also:

  • ensure that contributors to programmes such as studio debates or chat shows do not smoke
  • deal with all aspects of illegal drug use, solvent and drug abuse, smoking and misuse of alcohol with due accuracy. Where necessary to achieve due accuracy, this should include, for example, the health implications and anti-social aspects of illegal drug use and binge drinking
  • ensure the legal and social context of our coverage is clear
  • avoid revealing explicit detail of how to use illegal drugs or abuse solvents, unless clearly editorially justified.


When archive content contains material that does not reflect current standards or attitudes towards smoking, alcohol, substance abuse or the use of illegal drugs, the historical context and integrity of the content may provide sufficient editorial justification.  However, the content should be appropriately scheduled and, where necessary, signposted and it should be clear to the audience that it is not contemporary.

(See Section 5 Harm and Offence: 5.4.2 - 5.4.5 and Section 13 Re-use and Reversioning: 13.4.13 - 13.4.15)