Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: Stanton Glantz, a leading activist in the non-smokers rights movement in the United States, has said the film industry needed clear guidelines on smoking that would also help in checking depiction of smoking in the movies.

Appreciating the efforts made by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss in banning smoking, Professor Glantz said the only tactical error he made was taking on the film stars instead of the producers. “Movies are ultimate business and it would be more effective to focus on the producers and the motion picture associations,” he told The Hindu here on Tuesday.

“We also made the same mistake in the United States initially but after we approached the producers, we have had excellent results with smoking scenes coming down by 30 per cent between 2005 and 2008, and Time-Warner, Disney and Universal groups agreeing not to promote smoking in their production,” he said.

“Things are moving in the United States and it is easier in India because the rating is done by the government agencies unlike in the U.S. where rating is voluntary. All they (Indian government) need to do is have a policy, or even fine tuning of the existing policies,” he said.

Rejecting the theory of “creative freedom” put forth by the industry, Professor Glantz said one could not ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence of the kind of influence movies had on children, smoking included.

It had also been seen that stringent ban on cigarette and tobacco advertising promoted more on-screen smoking scenes.

“What we want in the United States is not a blanket ban on smoking but depiction of anti-smoking advertisements, no brand identification and no trade-offs with the film-makers to promote a particular brand of cigarette,” he explained. These provisions were easy to implement. It would make more sense to have a policy of no-smoking rather than a censorship, he explained.

Curriculum

Professor Grantz is one of the founders of the Americans for Non-smokers Rights and developed a curriculum that has been used by an estimated 1 million students. He also helped write and produce the films, Secondhand Smoke which concerns the health effects of involuntary smoking, and 120,000 Lives which presents the evidence that smoking in the movies recruit adolescent smokers and suggests practical solutions for reducing this effect.