In a senate discussion on the price of cigarettes, French health minister, Agnès Buzyn, said that she is ready to clamp down on le problème le plus important: smoking in films.
The health minister insinuated that characters who smoke in films encourage young people to do the same. If only to add legitimacy to her unfounded claims, last Tuesday, a spokesperson for the European Commission concurred that: “the Commission welcomes all measures taken by EU countries that de-glamorise smoking, and reduce uptake, particularly among young people.”
It seems that the combination of excessive super-taxes, state-imposed plain packaging, outright bans in pubs, clubs, restaurants, bus stops, cars and wherever else, simply hasn’t done enough to protect children from smoking. Who would have thought?
Following a considerable rise in black market sales (15 per cent of all cigarettes in France), one would think that the dream team of Paris and Brussels might prioritise educating the young about the risks of smoking. Instead they patronise the arts by attempting to whitewash movie scripts to EU standards, through a bizarre confluence of paternalism and censorship.
Movies often attempt to achieve accurate representations of the societies in which they are set. On the European continent, it’s predicted that between a quarter and a third of people smoke. But such doublethink doesn’t fit the EU agenda.
Must we accept that Sean Connery's cigarette in Casino Royale is a given evil? That children’s eyes must be averted? Supposedly the next Godfather trilogy will still feature corruption, hard drugs, and prostitution... but at least they're not smoking!
This is just the latest display of anti-tobacco sentiment going so visibly off-piste that one is unsure whether it’s 1 April. The public health lobby in Brussels is unabashed in their blatant paternalism against the European consumer, and ready to let no pleasure escape their hunger for control.
We, as consumers, should actually be unapologetic about the fact that we enjoy drinking soda, that we like fatty foods, that we cherish a nice drink and that some of us take pleasure in smoking. We realise that none of these are without health concerns, and that everything is dangerous once done in excess. We realise as well that there is a responsibility for parents to educate and care for their children, in order to protect them from harm.
What we shouldn't take anymore are measures to infantilise the average consumer to the extent that it is highly questionable who is in charge anymore: politicians or the public?