Recently I have been watching a number of European films (Spanish, French & others) like Corniche Kennedy (2016)The Girl with a Bracelet (2019), The Commune (2016) and more. Irrespective of the genre, I noticed that most of the main characters were shown smoking. Needless to say, outside India (and few other Asian countries) smoking is not exclusive to the Male gender.

I was wondering whether European films were exaggerating real-world behaviour?

In India, thanks to stricter laws and censorship, the number of smoking scenes seems to have reduced in the last decade. Also, awareness campaigns, increasing literacy, have reduced the smoking we see in the streets in India – I can certainly say it has in Chennai & Tamil Nadu and I guess that’s how it is in the rest of India.

I looked up a few data points online from Our World in Data and these are what I found:

  1. The percentage of adults who smoke from 2000 to 2016, has decreased in many of the countries around the world except Indonesia – this is not surprising as we have seen videos of a 3-year-old boy smoking multiple packs in a day.
  2. The percentage of adults who smoke from 2000 to 2016, has reduced a lot in India (~22% to 12%), in the USA (~32% to 22%), in Argentina (~42% to 22%).
  3. Contrast the above to Europe. In France, Germany and Spain they have reduced less or remained the same. They remain high at around 30%. (See the graph)
  4. Death has fallen sharply in India (no surprise, due to #2) from near 157 per 100,000 to 90 per 100,000.
  5. Surprisingly, in France, Spain and Germany the death rates have fallen from around 150 per 100,000 to around 70 per 100,000 – a near 50% reduction. This is probably due to improved healthcare and treatments. That may have the unintended consequence of removing the fear/risk associated with smoking, thereby unable to influence the population to reduce smoking.
Death rate from smoking, 1990 to 2017

Death rate from smoking, 1990 to 2017

Share of adults who smoke, 2000 to 2016

Share of adults who smoke, 2000 to 2016

It seems I am not alone to have noticed this. A recent study by the French Against Cancer and published by Barrons & BBC found that:

  1. Smoking gets 2.6 minutes of screen time on average per french film,
  2. Between 2015 and 2019, 90.7 per cent of films include at least one event, one object, or a line related to tobacco,
  3. 60% of French young people considered such scenes to be an inducement to smoke.

“Tobacco is quasi-ubiquitous in French films,” the League said.

What do you think? Do you agree with the observations that European films feature smoking more than in Indian/Asian films? Share your comments below.

Footnote: Writing this post, I was reminded of a Hollywood satirical comedy “Thank you for smoking (2005)“. #smoking #cigarettes

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