Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: What do you think about smoking in movies?

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Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan in James Bond film, Die Another Day. Do you think smoking in movies is unnecessary?Photo / Supplied
Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan in James Bond film, Die Another Day. Do you think smoking in movies is unnecessary?Photo / Supplied

It's about time the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was exposed for its portrayal of smoking.

While my husband took our daughter to see it, I opted out - mainly because I assume any movie that gets even close to two-hours-49-minutes in duration must be indulgent, undisciplined and unnecessarily rambling.

So I stayed at home and went online to see what the opinion makers of the day had to say about Peter Jackson's latest work. I came away with the impression that it is heavy on the smoking.

"How was the movie?" I asked the family afterwards. "Great," they replied. "Is there much smoking in it?" I asked. "Actually, now you mention it, it did kind of glorify smoking," said my other half.

Some people approved of all the rampant puffing.

"Should provide another boost of popularity for pipe smoking when this comes out ...

just as the LOTR trilogy did. Pretty cool trailer ... plenty of pipe smoke," said an enthusiast at Pipes magazine. Another commentator said, "The substantial use of pipes in the movie was definitely a positive, and ... in keeping with Tolkien's affinity for tobacco smoking."

Hobbit "promotes smoking" to children, says expert reported an overseas professor's comment that "the New Zealand Government was spending millions of dollars on anti-smoking advertising, yet it had paid millions of dollars in the form of tax breaks to producers of The Hobbit which had scenes with smoking characters."

There's overwhelming evidence that such scenes have a significant impact on children.

According to Smoke Free Movies, "Smoking in movies is the most powerful pro-tobacco influence on kids today, accounting for 44 per cent of adolescents who start smoking, an effect even stronger than cigarette advertising."

Furthermore, campaigners say, "After controlling for other factors, 52.2 per cent of youth smoking initiation can be attributed to exposure to smoking in films."

Evidently, the appearance of such products in big budget movies is not accidental either. Smoking in films is not purely driven by the needs of the story or the character.

"In the 1980s, the four Major US tobacco Companies ... hired aggressive product placement teams to put tobacco products and signs in positive situations in films." The commercial imperatives of the tobacco industry are said to still be behind many decisions to picture smoking.

So we really must wonder whether smoking in movies targeted at children is either appropriate or ethical. Many people believe it is neither. Attorneys General of 31 US states tried to appeal to the consciences of studio bosses with a 2007 letter that read: "Each time a member of the [film] industry releases another movie that depicts smoking, it does so with the full knowledge of the harm it will bring to children who watch it."

Smoking in films "should get automatic 18 rating" reported The Guardian.

Last year the latest James Bond movie - which portrayed "yet another glamorous actress ... clad in an evening gown with a drop-dead accessory, a smoldering cigarette" - came in for much criticism in this regard. Skyfall Is the Worst Movie for Smoking in 2012, Smoke Free Movies Finds said the Huffington Post.

According to those who count such things, Skyfall had "over 20 smoking incidences" and delivered "over 840 million impressions in the US alone". Yet again, this is an action movie with great appeal to children and young people.

And, finally, on a more frivolous note: did you know that, as well as being the name of an illustrious local filmmaker, Peter Jackson is a brand of cigarettes, available in Full Flavour, Light, Menthol and Smooth? Is it mere coincidence or is it reason for conspiracy theorists to speculate that he's been a tobacco industry plant since birth?

What's your view on smoking in the movies? Is it okay or unnecessary? Is it right that children are targeted in this manner?

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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