Tobacco and tobacco branding in popular films in the UK

New study finds tobacco content continues to appear in UK Box Office films and is widely seen by young people, representing a major driver of smoking uptake.

13 October 2020

Exposure to tobacco imagery in film is a recognised cause of smoking uptake.

An earlier study reported that tobacco content occurred in 70% of UK box office films popular between 1989 and 2008, and that 56% of those containing tobacco were rated as suitable for viewing by children aged under 15 years.

To determine whether tobacco imagery continues to be prevalent in contemporary UK box office films, researchers at the Universities of Nottingham and Bath have published findings from an analysis of popular films at the UK box office between 2009 and 2017.

Tobacco still prevalent in films classified as suitable for children under 15

The study found that tobacco content continues to occur frequently in the most popular UK films, appearing in 40% of all films rated suitable for watching by people aged under 18 years by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

Despite a drop in the number of films containing tobacco over this later time period, the study found that the proportion of films containing tobacco classified as suitable for viewing by people aged under 15 years was unchanged.

Nearly two-thirds of films containing tobacco imagery were classified as suitable for viewing by people aged under 15 years.

The study estimates that the top 15 films from 2017 alone delivered approximately 21.6 million tobacco impressions to young people aged 10–18 years in the UK. This could represent a major driver of smoking uptake.

More information

Read the publication in Thorax