I have no love for cigarettes. Apart from a couple of ill-judged Camels while on holiday in Prague in 1995 (and, inevitably, a fine Cuban on the evening of Labour’s 1997 victory), I’ve never smoked. My mother, who chain smoked from a very young age, died of lung cancer a few years ago. So, as I say, not a big fan of the weed.
Having said all that, I didn’t vote for the complete ban which has been in force in England for exactly a year; I voted instead for what was in Labour’s 2005 manifesto: a ban in areas where cooked food is served.
Nevertheless, the ban has proved more popular and workable than I had expected, even among smokers.
Now I read of proposals to classify movies according to their smoking content. All very well, but I do hope we’re not going to start retrospectively editing classic movies in the same way some iconic photographs have been butchered. I remember being appalled that a publicity shot of The Beatles had been digitally altered to remove the band members’ fags from their hands. What next? Taking Winston Churchill’s cigar away?
I was relived to see that Sebastian Faulks, in writing the new Bond novel, had maintained his hero’s addiction to tobacco. Relieved not because it’s a particularly cool or attractive habit – it’s not, it’s pretty disgusting – but because the character Ian Fleming created was a smoker, and characters set in the 1960s shouldn’t have 21st century standards imposed upon them retrospectively. That would be entirely dishonest. It would be the equivalent of remaking Tess of the d’Urbervilles and depicting Angel Clare as a feminist.
But let’s get this in perspective. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines featured one of the most gratuitous scenes of graphic violence I have ever seen, depicting the death of a police officer by a killer android who drives its arm through the back of his seat, through his stomach to take control of the car he’s driving. And that was given a 12A certificate. Under these proposals, had Arnie lit up a fag, I’m guessing it would have been given a 15 or even an 18 certificate. Come on.
And given that two thirds of stabbings occur when the attacker has been drinking, can we expect scenes where James Bond orders a vodka martini to be cut or for the movie in question to be restricted to adults only?
Of course film producers and actors must have a responsibility to their younger, more impressionable audience members and not to be complicit in their making any health-damaging lifestyle choices. But we have to draw the line at preventing young audiences watching classic movies like Casablanca or Doctor No just because the main protagonists have a taste for cigarettes.