What would happen to Popeye and Sherlock Holmes' pipes? To the plot-required puffing in "Thank You for Smoking"? To the endless clouds of smoke that give realism to almost any movie set in the 1940s or 1950s? To the Cigarette Smoking Man in the "X Files" movie?
According to research published by a British medical journal, films that show anyone smoking should not be seen by those under 18 years old. (Their recommendation isn't binding, and the British Board of Film Classification pretty much responded with "our current rating system is fine, thank you verrah much.")
The London Guardian had a lot of fun with the research, pointing out that this would mean no one under 18 could see "Alice in Wonderland" (remember the caterpillar's hookah?), "Pinocchio," "101 Dalmatians" (Cruella constantly waved around one of those elegant cigarette holders), "The Lord of the Rings" or "Peter Pan." No matter that it's often a bad guy smoking (Captain Hook in "Peter Pan") or that smoking may be part of a lesson (in "Pinocchio," Lampwick tries to teach Pinocchio to smoke, but it's clearly a bad thing).
Yes, we've known for years that smoking is bad for you, but building a wall around the habit and not letting kids see that it exists isn't the answer. If your kids are young enough that smoking in movies makes them want to try it, they're also young enough that parents should be talking to their kids after they see a movie, as well as reinforcing the dangers of smoking in real life.
I'm a pretty prudish mom when it comes to kid entertainment (see my story on why you shouldn't take your kid to "Predator"). But this seems ridiculous to me. You can run around the world and try and get rid of all the rough edges for your kid, or you can pad them as best you can with your own knowledge and — dare I say it? — parenting, so when they run into something like smoking in films they don't completely freak out and puff their way through a carton of Marlboro Reds on their way home from the theater.
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