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Smoke screens

Exclusive: Larry Neild tells how city councillors have stubbed out the daft plan to X-rate any film showing smokers

Published on November 30th 2009.


Smoke screens

LIVERPOOOL can proudly take the credit for the introduction of a nation-wide ban on smoking in public. It was an initiative that earned widespread public support, and earned loads of brownie points for Liverpool.

Around a third of people said they would head out of the city to watch a “banned” film if the law was changed

The big beneficiaries have been the manufacturers of smoking shelters, places where those still addicted to the demon weed huddle together while enjoying, among other things, the odd puff. Indeed this group of modern-day lepers have found comfort and companionship. Nicotine-enhanced romances have blossomed behind modern day bike sheds, with smokers walking up the aisle and exchanging packets of Silk Cut or 20 Regal instead of traditional rings.Then Liverpool decided to go one further, making the history books again, this time with its own version of Prohibition.

Under the proposal, films screened in Liverpool showing people smoking would be ‘X’ rated. Under 18s too impatient to wait for the release of DVDs would be forced to sneak out of Liverpool to picturehouses beyond the city limits, like Switch Island.

The idea of the cinema ban – the first in the UK - came from Liverpool Primary Care Trust, alarmed because there are more young smokers in Liverpool than anywhere else.

It cites research indicating that young people observing adults smoking in films find it cool and decide to light up.

So why not ban parents from enjoying a drag in front of their children? The council’s traffic wardens could be armed with smoke detectors to catch adults walking around the city with packets of ciggies hidden in pockets. Specially trained spaniels could pinpoint suspects by sniffing out men and woman smelling of tobacco.

What was impressive about this latest exercise was the common sense of Liverpool folk - the vast majority think the idea is daft.

Over 600 people participated in a consultation exercise. Half of the respondents has smoked at sometime in their lives, with one in 20 still users of cigarettes. Almost two-thirds felt young people would not be influenced by seeing adults in films smoking.

Around a third of people said they would head out of the city to watch a “banned” film if the law was changed.

A large number of people feared tough rules controlling film classifications would be harmful to Liverpool. Just 29 percent supported the idea of the council over-riding the film ratings issued by the national censors, the British Board of Film Classification.

The council’s Licensing Committee showed equal commonsense by deciding not to change the rules that would have seen councillors having to view every film to spot Hollywood greats sneaking a sly fag.

Instead the committee wants the PCT to lobby for a national change of rules, though it will be the full city council to finally decide whether Liverpool should fly the flag.

And while the PCT’s motives are understandable, where do you draw the line on what should be outlawed in films? Violence, gun crime, the list could be endless.

The vast majority of people backed the call for a ban on smoking in public places. Now the vast majority of people have closed the curtain on an idea as barmy as introducing passports in Pimlico.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

TourmanNovember 30th 2009.

These Council busy bodies have too much time on their hands and should be sacked. A quick straw pole among my teenaged daughter and her friends told me that PEER pressure NOT seeing Brad Pitt was the reason young people smoked. How much money has been wasted by this mad bunch, it is not their money, so they should be required to PAY IT BACK.

Fed up and put uponNovember 30th 2009.

This remains a crazy idea. Are we to understand that this barmy plot will now be paraded before the national government?

Stanley StreetNovember 30th 2009.

So Laz, as well as all the misery this Council has inflicted on local Council Tax payers over the last ten years you're also saying that they were responsible for the smoking ban that has led to the closure of 57 pubs every week across the nation and the loutish behaviour outside those surviving pubs? We'd have to bring back hanging for a crime of this magnitude!

Dr. CameronNovember 30th 2009.

No Tourman, mark my words! When the cuts come it will be hardworking, decent nurses who will be sacked to save money, not these useless, self-regarding, overpaid, bureaucratic dictators!

worried mumNovember 30th 2009.

When I go to the cinema I always cover my daughter's eyes when I spot somebody smoking on the big screen. And every time she says Don't do that Mother, your fingers stink of cigarettes.

Dr. FinlayNovember 30th 2009.

Obviously the PCT currently has more money than it knows what to do with. Perhaps if this unelected body spent it on healing the sick rather than going on jollies to New York and dictating to healthy, law-abiding people how to live their private lives, we'd be able to worry less about where the axe falls when public-sector spending is severely cut in the very near future.

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