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Passive Smoking: Smoking Kids (2003)


Main image of Passive Smoking: Smoking Kids (2003)
Production CompanyCentral Office of Information
SponsorNational Assembly for Wales

Anti-smoking public information film focusing on the danger that passive smoking poses to children.

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The launch of the government's £1m Passive Smoking campaign, comprising a series of hard-hitting TV fillers including Smoking Kids, coincided with a call from Sir Liam Donaldson, England's Chief Medical Officer, for an all-out ban on smoking in enclosed public places. The passive smoking argument had been gathering momentum since the 1980s when epidemiologists first began linking smoking to increased risk of cancer and respiratory ailments in non-smokers, including children. Potential harm to innocent third parties became the single most powerful argument for regulatory control of smoking and was the driving force behind the ban on smoking in public places, which came into force in July 2007.

A soothing rendition of the nursery rhyme 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' plays over footage of small children playing with their toys at home. This is quite the picture of innocence, until it appears that they are inhaling cigarette smoke produced by their seemingly uncaring offscreen supervisors. The visual conceit is as simple as it is effective. No scientific explication is needed here, just a cursory onscreen reference to a British Medical Journal article for empirical backup (Passive Exposure to Tobacco Smoke in Children, 1994). Scientific research, which had driven anti-smoking policy-making to date, is now subjugated to more compelling and emotive moral 'evidence'. The 'guilt trip' approach has proved highly successful, mainly because it refutes the longstanding 'individual liberty' pro-smoking argument. Choosing to endanger your own health is one thing - taking innocent little children, whose bodies and lungs are still developing, down with you is surely a reprehensible act of selfishness?

The fourth Royal College of Physicians Report, Health or Smoking? (March 2010) provides data to support its assertion that over 100,000 people die every year from smoking-related illness in the UK, lending further weight to medical evidence linking passive smoking with lung cancer in non-smokers. Interestingly many of its recommendations such as banning the promotion, glamourisation and endorsement of cigarettes, recall those of the organisation's landmark 1962 report, but central to the 2010 version is the protection of children.

Katy McGahan

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Anti-Smoking Public Information Films