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Dying for a Smoke (1967)


Main image of Dying for a Smoke (1967)
16mm, colour, 9 mins
DirectorJohn Halas
Production CompanyHalas & Batchelor
SponsorsDepartment of Health
  London Television Service

Old Nick O'Teen disguises himself as an eighteen year old motor cyclist to better lure children, such as Sam Sucker, into the cigarette habit.

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By the time Dying For a Smoke was produced in 1967, the anti-smoking crusade had achieved its first major triumph with an all-out ban on tobacco advertising on television, legislated in 1965. The next significant phase would be the introduction of health warnings on cigarette packets and a ban on tobacco advertising on radio advertising in the early 1970s.

Although slow to take on board many recommendations of the landmark 1962 Royal College of Physicians Report, the government recognised its responsibility to educate children about the dangers of smoking from the outset. Here, the stalwarts of the public information sphere, the animation outfit Halas & Batchelor, are summoned to convert dry ministerial objectives into an engaging messave with their signature humour and vibrancy. Assuming the morally black and white narrative and colourful antics of contemporary children's cartoons, evil is pitted against innocence. The villainous cartoon character 'Old Nick O'Teen', famously resurrected in the Superman Vs Nick O'Teen (1981) campaign, disguises himself as an eighteen year old motor cyclist to try and lure unsuspecting kids into the cigarette habit. Young Sam Sucker falls into his trap but in doing so learns a valuable lesson. The film was shown widely in schools and youth clubs and, although primarily aimed at 12-15-year- olds, would have been seen by a much wider audience range.

Consensus on anti-smoking policy was still a long way off in the mid-1960s as illustrated by a remark by one minister who off-set a parliamentary debate on the subject when he questioned whether the Central Film Library's mobile vans, which were used to despatched anti-smoking films such as this title around the UK, were not emitting harmful diesel fumes?

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
Complete film (9:47)
Anti-Smoking Public Information Films