More Smoke on Love Island

The fuss about the depiction of smoking on a British TV programme called Love Island shown last year is still raging. I commented on this lamentable situation in a previous article (Steam and Smoke on Love Island) and made the point that ‘Any depiction of smoking in a contemporary film, play or TV show should not be countenanced; it looks ridiculous and wrong.’

But now we learn from the online Bath Chronicle (24 February 2018) about a new study of this programme, led by Dr Rachael Murray, Associate Professor in Health Policy at the University of Nottingham.

The headline is: ‘Love Island sends out “dangerous message that smoking is somehow harmless and innocent” ’. Pretty obvious, I would have thought. But Dr Murray went about analysing the situation in a proper scientific manner, using ‘one-minute interval coding to measure audio-visual tobacco content’, and came to this shocking conclusion:

When all the data were combined with audience viewing figures and population estimates…the 21 episodes delivered 559 overall tobacco ‘impressions’ to the UK population, including 47 million to children under the age of 16.

Quite apart from the question of whether such a programme is suitable viewing for children under the age of sixteen even without the smoking, it seems the situation was much worse than I thought when I wrote my blog last year.

Let us also consider a comment by the co-author of the paper, Dr Jo Cranwell, Assistant Professor in Public Health at the University of Bath: ‘The extent of smoking in Love Island is shocking.’ What does she mean, ‘the extent’? Does she mean too much smoking was shown, and that this is why it is shocking? In other words, if less smoking had been shown on the programme it would have moved down the scale from shocking towards being acceptable?

This is symptomatic of the whole problem of smoking today: no one, apart from me it seems, can see that the emperor has got no clothes on. Smoking is potentially lethal but cigarettes are freely on sale; cigarettes are freely on sale but the horrible pictures and health warnings tell you not to buy them; smoking is not suitable for children but is somehow suitable for adults who choose to smoke; smoking is due to drug (nicotine) addiction but it’s also an unhealthy habit and people smoke because of ‘triggers’ and because they enjoy it.

And now, apparently it’s Okay for smoking to be shown on TV – as long as the extent of it is not too much.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Gabriel Symonds

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