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Moscow: Health Ministry seeks ban on smoking in films

Nu pogodi

Nu pogodi

In a bid to stop life imitating art, the Health and Social Development Ministry has proposed legislation to ban smoking in children’s television and movies, and require artistic justification for such scenes in all other films, Kommersant reported on Monday.

Protecting malleable minds
The bill, “The protection of public health from the effects of tobacco consumption,” which was submitted to the government on May 20, regulates all audiovisual productions, including advertisements, Health and Social Development Ministry representative Sofia Malyavina told Kommersant. Children’s programming would be the most tightly controlled.

“All audiovisual products that are aimed at a children’s audience would fall under a complete ban,” said Malyavina. “As concerns adult audiences, the depiction of smoking is allowed if it is artistically justified by the author. The procedure to determine whether it is artistically justified will be decided by the Culture Ministry with an additional piece of legislation. This will apply to both domestic films produced in Russia and foreign productions. Accordingly, the Culture Ministry will not allow the release of audiovisual products if they are contrary to this law.”

Artistic freedoms curtailed
Film industry players were unimpressed with the new anti-smoking initiative, however.

“Classifying whether a scene is artistically justified, or is not justified, is absolutely senseless, stupid and idiotic, because the committee members will argue that it does not fit, the author will say that it does, and will explain why it matches the character: ‘That’s the character of the hero,’ ‘No, he cannot smoke,’ ‘That’s the kind of person he is,’” said the ex-head of the Guild of Cinema Experts and Critics, Viktor Mattizen.

“And most importantly is how it all ends – with censorship. I do not understand how the ban will work. With regard to almost anything you can say: a person drinks in a scene, let’s define this, is he drinking a glass [of alcohol] through artistic necessity or is it not needed for art. But then here he kisses a woman, why does he do it?”

Banned characters
While the nation’s health guardians and the creative class would be left to debate the artistic merits of Sherlock Holmes’ pipe or fictional Soviet spy Max Otto von Stierlitz’s cigarettes, the proposed law would leave no rooms for such beloved children’s characters at the wolf from “Nu, Pogodi!

Kommersant wrote, however, that the ban would not apply retrospectively.

Major killer
A press release accompanying the proposed legislation aimed to justify the new rules by stating that almost 40 percent of the population smoked.

Tobacco smoking is associated with 23 percent of all male deaths and 4 percent of all deaths of women. In the largest working age group – 30-59 years – tobacco smoking in men is associated with approximately 40 percent of all deaths, and in women – almost 20 percent,” Interfax quoted the press release as saying.


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