French cinema still addicted to on-screen smoking, survey shows

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day, the French League against cancer organisation has published a survey of over 150 films showing that French cinema is still addicted to smoking. With references appearing in nearly all domestic productions, the organisation says young people are particularly at risk.

Actors Romy Schneider and Alain Delon on the set of "La Piscine" in 1968 (Illustration photo)
Actors Romy Schneider and Alain Delon on the set of "La Piscine" in 1968 (Illustration photo) © STF/AFP

"Tobacco is quasi-ubiquitous in French films," the French League against cancer said.

With 2.6 minutes of screen time on average per film, tobacco gets an exposure equivalent to six advertising spots, the survey by Ipsos for the League said based on 150 films examined.

"Between 2015 and 2019, 90.7 percent of films include at least one event, one object, or a line related to tobacco," it said.

This included a character smoking, the presence of ashtrays and of cigarettes, or a character talking about smoking, it said.

More than a decade after a comprehensive indoor smoking ban came into force in France, films show people puffing away in public spaces more than ever, the League said.

More than 20 percent of smoking scenes occur in offices or other workplaces, and nearly as many in cafes, restaurants or nightclubs, the survey found.

Targeting young people

A poll among young adults accompanying the survey found that nearly 60 percent considered such scenes to be an incitement to smoke, and almost as many thought the tobacco industry was involved in product placement.

"The League vigorously denounces the glamorising of smoking in French films over the past 15 years," its president Axel Kahn said in a statement, also blaming "campaigns targeting young people, that are as aggressive as they are insidious".

The study, timed ahead of World No Tobacco Day on 31 May, came as the French health authority Sante Public reported that last year saw the end of a years-long downward trend in smoking in France.

Blaming a "social crisis context" in a year marked by Covid, Sante Public said more lower-income people smoked than in 2019, and fewer smokers had made an attempt to quit.

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