Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Welsh Government proposes smoking ban amendment

Although this proposed amendment exempts only television studios and indoor filming locations, it is notable that the proposal issues from the Welsh Government. Apparently it fears competition from England where actors are permitted indoor smoking if artistic integrity demands it. The consultation reads:
“The smoking ban has been a major issue for a number of productions that have been filmed in Wales, especially period dramas set in a time when smoking was commonplace. 
The creation of an exemption for performers could therefore benefit the Welsh economy by possibly bringing more productions to Wales.”
The story is here. Anti-smokers are up in arms – furious at the reversal of the zero tolerance approach that the Welsh Government simultaneously pursues in the matter of smoking in motor cars, and insisting that the power of suggestion should be enough:
Julie Barratt, director of the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health in Wales, said: “There is no suggestion that where a character is stabbed or shot that the artistic integrity of the performance requires they should be stabbed or shot or that for artistic integrity purposes a character shown taking drugs intravenously should actually be doing so – such activities are capable of being acted using props and special effects.
It is absurd to suggest that smoking is in theatrical terms the equivalent of an assassination: something you can't do for real. The point is that smoking should stopped from being viewed not only in polite society but in the theatre. The very reason for allowing an exemption would be to enable authenticity and realism in the theatre: insisting on allowing ASH Wales to undertake the artistic director's job in programming will do Wales no favours in the programming business. The ASH Wales spokeswoman says:
'We want to de-normalise and de-glamorise smoking so children do not see it portrayed as normal behaviour and something they should imitate.'
Denormalise and deglamorise? They want smoking to be seen as (1) abnormal,  (2) unglamorous and (3) only something that people do when their lives are so abject as to fall under the radar of televised drama? (or do they just want their own way – hang the cost?)

The proposal includes certain conditions that must be satisfied before smoking can take place, including the exclusion of all children and members of the general public from any room used for filming smoking. Somewhat absurdly the consultation questions ask whether children and the public are sufficiently protected from passive smoke. Perhaps we can expect answers from ASH Wales and the director of the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health in Wales that will detail the threats from third and fourth hand smoke (as well as the portrayal of smoking by both normal and glamorous people).

The consultation document and other related documents are here (English and Welsh). It does not specify that you need to live in Wales to fill it in (an address box is included).

The Scottish Government should take note: if this is approved, we could lose programming opportunities to Wales as well as England!


Anonymous said...

So allowing a few dozen poxy actors to smoke could benefit the Welsh economy, but allowing millions of people to once again socialise together and spend money on food, drink, taxis etc, wouldn't?


Let's try repealing the ban for one year and seeing what benefits happen. Of course they won't do that because it would just highlight how much economic damage the ban has caused.

Jonathan Bagley said...

This is very interesting. Passive smoking is either very harmful or it is not. If camera crews and actors can choose to put up with it, then why not the (smoking)staff of private smoking clubs? They really have got themselves in a mess. Don't let up on this.

Belinda said...

this is not just up to me, but to all interested readers to keep an eye on the issue, write to the Welsh papers, answer the consultation, be vigilant.

Anonymous said...

and what about anthony mcdermoot who was persecuted bullied and abused by his workmates at mettler-toledo safeline salford because he was a smoker and commited suicide by hanging who is accountable

Michael J. McFadden said...

(Belinda, if this is too long to be appropriate here, feel free to delete it! It's my "answer" to the consultation.}


Dear Sirs and Madams,

I would like to comment on the generous exemptions being proposed to "Smoke Free Premises etc.(Wales) (Amendment)"

The requirement for the first exemption is reasonable within the theatrical context, although its spirit should be expanded far beyond that context.

The requirement for the second exemption opens a problem: Who is going to decide on the "artistic integrity" standard? An antismoking advocacy group? If a director decides that a sultry female spy should use a long cigarette holder and blow thoughtful smoke rings into the air while pursuing her craft, will that be allowed or will the artist be sent somewhere for re-education until his/her artistic visions conform to the "proper" level of integrity? Will Churchill be allowed his cigar? Or Sherlock Holmes his pipe? Who will be the deciding body and what set of artistic standards standards will be codified and used?

The third exemption becomes even more problematic: "there are no members of the public viewing the making of the television programme or film." What conceivable justification can there be for concerns about a member of the public "viewing" someone smoking in the course of "the making of" a theatrical production? Are members of the public generally "protected" from "viewing" people smoking on the streets of Britain nowadays? Are there plans in the works to so protect them? One option might be to insist that smokers stand in a strip by the side of the roads when they smoke while the nonsmoking members of the public be constrained to walk down the center portions while looking straight ahead and wearing government-approved blinders. Reflectors could be fitted on the sides of the blinders so that CCTV cameras could catch the glint off them produced by any wayward sideways glances that pedestrians might try to sneak of the evil smoking and the pedestrians then fined appropriately. I must say, you Brits are certainly leading the way in behavioral control creativity, so I wouldn't be surprised.


Michael J. McFadden said...

And then we get to the fourth exemption, requiring that: "there are no children present in the part of the premises where the performer would be smoking." I guess there are two reasons for this requirement: First, the deadly viewing of smoking as cautioned against by the requirements for exemption #3; and Second, the possibility of death and injury to a child if someone was smoking "in the part of the premises" where they would be at.

If my general knowledge of such film and television "premises" from the States is also applicable to the technologies and general practice employed in the UK, the ventilation rates under the hot theatrical lights tend to be rather high ... say about ten times the rates normally experienced by children in homes where their parents might smoke. I would like to ask the "Tobacco Policy Branch" to produce even a single scientific study showing ANY degree of real harm to children by passing exposures to such levels of smoke.

NOTE: I am not asking for "statements" by "responsible authorities," nor am I asking for generalized "Reports" offering impressions of such studies, nor am I requesting "Fact Sheets" or "opinion pieces" or "web sites" from advocacy groups. I am asking for something quite simple actually: just one, or, most preferably, a few, actual, published, publicly accessible scientific studies showing real harms to children from the concentrations and durations of exposure that would normally be experienced in such theatrical production facilities if a few actors were allowed to smoke "in the part of the premises" where "artististic integrity" has happened to demand and allow such smoking to take place.

The exemptions are sound, and should, if anything, be expanded. The restrictive requirements for them are not.

I do not know your general rules regarding such things over there, but, if such a request is reasonable, I would like a proper response to this input, including a citation of studies that the proper body would be willing to defend in showing the necessity for the restrictive requirements proposed.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"
BOD of TICAP (The International Coalition Against Prohibition)
BOD of FORCES (Fight Ordinance and Restrictions to Control or Eliminate Smoking) .org
Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Citizens Freedom Alliance
Director PASAN, Pennsylvania Smokers Action Network
Active member of other Free Choice groups. No compensation involved for any such memberships or officer activity.