By Tim Shipman
Children barred from seeing classic films over plans to impose 18 certificate for smoking
Children under 18 will be banned from watching films that depict characters smoking under plans being considered by council ‘thought police’.
An 18 certificate – usually reserved for movies with violent and sexual content – will be slapped on any film featuring smokers that fails to explain cigarettes are bad for you.
Such titles include Disney’s classic 101 Dalmatians cartoon, in which the evil Cruella de Vil waves a cigarette holder.
The ban will target new releases, but could affect older films such as 101 Dalmatians and Disney’s Peter Pan, the Little Mermaid and Pinnocchio if they are reissued and reclassified.
Casablanca, Titanic and Lord of the Rings would be restricted to adults under the plans proposed for Liverpool.
One exception to the new rules will be movies which feature major historical characters who are known to be smokers. So any films with Winston Churchill brandishing his trademark cigar would not be affected.
But the only others to get the green light from Liverpool City Council will be those which provide a ‘clear and unambiguous portrayal of the dangers of smoking, other tobacco use, or second-hand smoke’, the council said.
The British Board of Film Classification is generally responsible for classifying films. But under the Licensing Act 2003, local councils have powers to classify or reclassify films to be exhibited in their areas.
The guidance recommends that councils should not duplicate the work of the BBFC, but it does allow authorities to reclassify films if there are ‘good local reasons’.
Some councils used similar powers to ban Monty Python’s Life of Brian in 1979 for blasphemy.
The proposal has been made to the authority’s licensing and gambling committee by Liverpool Primary Care Trust, which demanded the changes on the grounds that29 per cent of Liverpudlians smoke – 7 per cent higher than the national average – and 3,300 children in the city take up smoking every year.
The plans are now part of a consultation with residents being run by Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat council.
If they go ahead, cinemas and any other premises showing films would have to notify the council 21 days in advance if they intend to show films containing images of smoking.
Yesterday, Tory local government spokesman Bob Neill said: ‘This is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
‘It is not the role of town halls to act as puritanical thought police, banning children from watching films like Lord of the Rings, 101 Dalmatians or Casablanca because they offend politically correct sensibilities.