Film bosses act up over smoking
20 February 2013
Allowing actors to smoke on film and TV sets in Wales will break the principle of putting health before commercialism, the BMA has said.
BMA Cymru Wales this week gave evidence to a joint Welsh Assembly subcommittee examining the Welsh government’s plans to amend the nation’s smoking ban.
BMA Welsh council member and BMA medical ethics committee chair Tony Calland told AMs: ‘If this amendment is passed, it’s sending out a message that poisoning a small number of people for a short period of time is okay, but actually poisoning lots of people a lot of the time is not OK. That’s a daft message to send out.
‘The driver behind this amendment, I suspect, is commercialism. It’s about money, it’s about jobs, it’s about wealth. As soon as any government allows a commercial-based argument to modify legislation, it will be a nanosecond before the drinks industry and the tobacco industry are banging on your door saying you’ve broken the principle … of health over commercialism.
‘You have allowed a little bit of commercialism here, so the principle is not one of health over commercialism any longer — it’s a bit of a balance.’
England exemption wrong
Dr Calland was asked about the situation in England, where an exemption about smoking on film and TV sets was incorporated in the original legislation.
He answered: ‘Just because [the exemption] happened in England, doesn’t mean to say it is right. The BMA position was we didn’t agree with the exemption in England either.’
He told AMs: ‘You’ve done a brilliant job with the legislation so far — don’t let it go.’
Dr Calland also outlined the detrimental short-term health effects of smoking and second-hand smoke.
In written evidence to the subcommittee, BMA Cymru Wales says: ‘Surely the creative industries can replicate the smoking of tobacco products in their productions, to minimal costs, in the same way they do with other scenes — such as drug taking, sex, gunshot wounds or being involved in an accident/explosion — where actors are not required to actually carry out these actions or to put themselves at risk.’
Passive exposure risk
Dr Calland was giving evidence alongside Royal College of Physicians of London representative Keir Lewis.
The college’s written evidence to the subcommittee says it is concerned that allowing the exemption ‘will result in passive exposure of staff involved in the production to smoke, and may result in actors/actresses who do not smoke being pressured into active smoking for the purposes of the production’.
The college adds that smoking imagery in film and television encourages smoking in adolescents which could mean the policy change would impact on a wider population than the production staff involved on the sets.
The joint subcommittee has been set up by the Welsh Assembly’s enterprise and business committee and health and social care committee.
AMs are due to vote on the Welsh government’s amendment later in the spring.