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Films 'promote smoking' with tobacco as prop

(First Edition)

FILM-MAKERS stand accused of promoting smoking in 80 per cent of the top movies by having characters use cigarettes as a prop against stress, or cigars as a status symbol, writes Michael Leapman.

Dr Terence Wright, reader in media studies at the University of Luton, in a report for the Health Education Authority, says no reference is made to the hazards: 'The evidence suggests that smoking is viewed in a positive light.' Dr Wright analysed the 10 most successful films of the first six months of this year. Eight of them contained a total of 21 scenes of people smoking. Of the six films aimed at under-15s, four depicted smoking.

He says smoking is often used to reinforce gender stereotypes: 'Men generally smoked when they were under pressure or reaching a tough, critical decision. Women were invariably in vulnerable situations when they lit up . . . Cigars served as symbolic metaphors for power or high social class but were also used when chewed on to portray a mean streak.'

Images of Smoking in Film; Health Education Authority, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9TX; free.