Can we Keep Faking It?
Anyone who watched the BBC’s recent Upstairs Downstairs series will have noticed there was quite a lot of smoking. It was the 1930’s after all. But how many noticed that much of it was fake?
The special effects were created by a Welsh company which can simulate smoking by using Computer Generated Imagery and Visual FX cigarettes and cigars.
A recent episode of Doctor Who also shows Sir Winston Churchill smoking a fake cigar:
Production companies are able to simulate a wide range of actions like drug taking, car crashes and shootings –so why should smoking, which kills nearly 6,000 people every year in Wales, be any different?
Next month however Assembly Members will be asked to vote to water down Wales’s flagship smoking legislation to allow film and TV companies to use real smoking in Welsh studios. The creative industry claims it needs to compete with England, which has an exemption built in to its smoking legislation for the film and television industry to protect the “artistic integrity” of a performance.
One of the Welsh Government’s priority areas is ‘reducing exposure to second hand smoke’. It’s a paradox therefore that at the same time as their resolve to bring smoking prevalence rates down to 16% by 2020 and reduce the harm caused by second hand smoke, it is now going to allow some people to be exposed to second hand smoke whilst carrying out their work.
Allowing the exemption could also lead to the temptation to use smoking more regularly during TV and film production in Wales. This in turn will normalise and glamorise smoking and increase the risk of more young people starting to smoke.
If we join England in enforcing this absurd loophole it will not only be a major backward step for Wales in terms of public health, but will also set a dangerous precedent for other industries to challenge the legislation in the future if they can put forward a commercial argument.
There are no plans in Scotland and Northern Ireland to introduce an exemption but we may end up creating a domino effect across the UK and be responsible for unravelling one of the most successful public measures in decades.
When we were once the first UK nation to call for a smoking ban, we will be the country that sells out when the going gets tough.
More than 80% of the Welsh public now support the ban on smoking in enclosed premises. We’ve come a long way since April 2nd 200 but the proposed amendment which is tabled for debate in the Assembly on October 16th could undermine everything that we have achieved.
The Welsh Government must hold firm on its smoking ban and tell industry that our values are not up for sale.
If you would like to support our calls to hold firm on Wales’s smoking ban please sign and share the e-petition here
Elen de Lacy is Chief Executive at ASH Wales
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