And the answer is?

| January 31, 2018

The EU Commission has said it supports a Council recommendation that, in part, calls on member states to prohibit all tobacco advertising in cinemas, ‘as well as practices which directly or indirectly promote tobacco products’.

However, it said the portrayal of smoking in films was not regulated at EU level.

The Commission was responding to a question by the French member of the European Parliament, Marie-Christine Arnautu, who had asked whether the Commission was officially in favor of banning smoking in films.

Arnautu, said in a preamble to her question that the idea of banning smoking in films, inspired by a fanatical obsession with public health, was absurd, patronising, invasive, disproportionate and a threat to freedom of artistic expression.

‘However, during a French Senate debate held on 16 November 2017 on the latest increase in cigarette prices, a Socialist senator complained that films were shamelessly encouraging smoking,’ Arnautu said. ‘The Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn, then immediately expressed her wish to “end the trivialising of smoking on social media and in films”, an assertion that raises questions about a possible ban on cigarettes on the silver screen.

‘If we were to take such moralising to its logical conclusion, we would also have to censure all the “deviant” behaviour on display in so many films, such as driving over the speed limit, fighting, stealing and other crimes. But why stop there when we could also ban misogynist remarks, unhealthy meals, alcohol, high-polluting cars and, while we’re at it, the cult dialogues of Michel Audiard’s films?

‘In response to the controversy, Commission spokesperson Anca Paduraru said that “the Commission welcomes all measures taken by EU countries that de-glamorize smoking and reduce uptake, particularly amongst young people” (Euractiv, 21/11/2017).’

Arnautu asked, ‘Is the Commission officially in favour of banning smoking in films?’

In its written answer, the Commission said the issue of smoking in films was of concern from a public health perspective. ‘Some studies funded by the Commission in the past indicate, for example, that in the EU young people’s exposure to smoking in films is much higher than it is to the same age group in the US,’ it said.

‘This is why, as the Commission pointed out in its answer to written question E-000981/2016, tobacco advertising in films is prohibited at EU-level by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

‘This Directive also prohibits product placement of tobacco products in films and sponsorship by undertakings whose principal activity is the manufacture or sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

‘In addition, the Commission supports the Council recommendation on the prevention of smoking and on initiatives to improve tobacco control. This recommendation calls on member states to further prohibit all advertising in cinemas, as well as practices which directly or indirectly promote tobacco products.

‘However, the actual portrayal of smoking in films is not regulated at EU level.’

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