Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Smoking and You (1963)


Main image of Smoking and You (1963)
16mm, colour, 11 mins
Director Derrick Knight
Production Company Derrick Knight & Partners
SponsorsCentral Office of Information
 Ministry of Health
Producer Derrick Knight
Script Derrick Knight
Photography Michael Boultree

The risks of cigarette smoking, factually presented, with the object of discouraging the 11-16 age group from forming the habit.

Show full synopsis

"Smoking in public may seem daring but it's hardly glamorous".

Following the publication of the 1962 Royal College of Physicians report confirming a direct link between smoking and ill health, including lung cancer, the government launched a national publicity campaign to warn people of the health hazards from smoking (though stopping short of an all-out ban on cigarette advertising, as recommended in the report).

With special emphasis placed on discouraging young people from forming the habit, over a million anti-smoking posters were distributed to local authorities and the film Smoking and You, aimed at the 11 to 16 age-group, was commissioned. But in the face of ubiquitous cigarette advertising, which continued to equate cigarettes with glamour, dismantling the image of smoking as a 'go-ahead' activity in the early 1960s was never going to be an easy challenge for the producers.

An array of disparate filmic devices are combined in order to convey the damaging effect of smoking on health. The montage of members of the public casually 'lighting up' establishes smoking as part of everyday life whilst quietly satirising cigarette advertising. This is followed by emotive footage of sorry middle-aged smokers, permanently breathless and confined to hospital beds (a device replicated in the Testimonial campaign three decades later), interspersed with scientific and medical explanation. Some stern warnings by the authoritative chest physician punches home the message: "There is no doubt about this, mark you, cigarettes can kill and if they don't kill they can rot the lungs". The stream of close-ups of damaged lung tissue and glass beakers brimming with revolting treacly tar extracted from smokers' lungs was designed to shock hopefully impressionable youngsters into not smoking. The shots of cigarette butts swilling in leftover food certainly show the unglamorous "side of smoking never shown in advertising".

According to later reports, 400 prints of the film were despatched free of charge (bookings from the Central Film Library normally incurred fees) to schools and youth clubs across the UK by three Central Film Library mobile film units that were made available for the campaign. The film was also distributed overseas.

Katy McGahan

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (10:45)
Anti-Smoking Public Information Films