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Drugs Commissioner calls for fewer cigarettes on screen

January 10, 2018

Despite a decline in the number of smokers in Germany, nearly 85 percent of films show the use of cigarettes, and usually in a too positive light — a dangerous trend, according to Drugs Commissioner Marlene Mortler.

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While the number of smokers in Germany may have gone done over the last 15 years, cigarettes are still ubiquitous in films and on television. That's a problem, said Marlene Mortler, Germany's Federal Drugs Commissioner, in an interview with newspaper and magazine publisher Funke Mediengruppe.

"The more frequently that young people see others smoking in films and on television, the greater the likelihood is that they will pick up a cigarette," said Mortler, referencing a recent study by the Kiel-based Institute for Therapy and Health Research.

That study revealed that of the 39 films which were nominated for the German Film Prize in 2016 and 2017, smoking was present in 33 of them — or 85 percent. In films nominated for an Oscar during the same period, that ratio was just 64 percent.

While both of those numbers are quite high, Mortler hoped to make the film industry "more aware of their role in influencing the health of their viewing public." As film characters are often looked up to by viewers, children and young adults may be more likely to smoke after seeing one of their heroes light up on screen.

Although the number of people who smoke in Germany is steadily declining, especially among those aged 18 to 25, Mortler said that smoking is still presented in a positive light in films and on television, something which the industry could take greater responsibility for.

"The idea that audiences have this kind of media literacy is reckless and short-sighted," Mortler noted in her appeal to the film industry to be more sensitive in their presentation of cigarettes.

ct/eg (KNA, AFP)