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Government subsidies to the US film industry promote youth smoking, argue researchers
Date:8/23/2011

Governments in the UK, US and Canada are undermining tobacco prevention campaigns by subsidising top-grossing US films that contain smoking, a report by public health researchers says. The paper, published in the open access journal PLoS Medicine, argues that films with tobacco imagery should be ineligible for public funding to ensure that film subsidy programmes do not conflict with public health goals.

Earlier research shows that young people who are heavily exposed to tobacco imagery in films are about three times more likely to begin smoking as lightly exposed youths. This evidence led the World Health Organisation to recommend in 2009 that future films with scenes of smoking be given an adult content rating, to create an economic incentive for producers to leave smoking out.

The report published today says that this recommendation has been largely ignored in the UK, US and Canada. Moreover, the governments in these countries help underwrite many films that promote youth smoking with generous public subsidies.

The researchers looked at subsidies given to the American film industry in the UK, US and Canada. They estimate that between 2003 and 2009, 338 million of tax credits in Britain went to US-produced films with tobacco imagery.

Out of the "high-grossing" films that had their tobacco content monitored, 66 per cent featured tobacco imagery. Over half (57 per cent) of the films containing smoking were rated U, PG or 12A, and only 8 per cent were given an 18 certificate.

In the UK, films that meet criteria for being "British" receive an effective tax relief of 16 per cent against their British spend, or 20 per cent if its budget is below 20 million. According to data from the UK Film Council, 144 films produced by American companies were certified "British" between 2003 and 2009, constituting 15 per cent of "British" films but, between 2006 and 2008, these took an estimated three-quarters of the value of a
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Contact: Sam Wong
sam.wong@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-42198
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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