Do children pick up smoking after watching Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour?

A cinema still of Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman.
A cinema still of Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman.PHOTO: JACK ENGLISH/FOCUS FEATURES

LONDON (Guardian) - Contestants' smoking habits in the reality TV show Love Island and Winston Churchill's cigars in the Oscar-winning film Darkest Hour inspire children to take up smoking, anti-tobacco campaigners have warned MPs in Britain.

Action On Smoking And Health (Ash) and the UK Centre For Tobacco And Alcohol Studies said children in Britain are still exposed to significant amounts of on-screen smoking.

They cited a rise in smoking in Oscar-nominated films and research that showed cigarettes appeared in Love Island every five minutes on average with the Lucky Strike brand appearing 16 times.

This year, 86 per cent of Oscar-nominated films contained someone smoking, up from 60 per cent four years ago, the groups noted.

Just over half of the nominated actors depicted smokers, the highest level in several years, research found .

Smoking is banned in British advertising, but not in programmes. Craig Lawson, a dumped Love Island contestant, told the Sun last year that every islander was given at least 20 cigarettes a day by producers, if they wanted them.

While Churchill was a famous cigar smoker and to show him smoking was justified, the majority of the smoking roles in biographical films were taken by fictional characters whom the film-makers had chosen to show smoking.

However, pro-smokers' group Forest said Ash was mounting "an attack on artistic freedom" and claimed there was "no significant evidence that smoking on TV or film encourages teenagers to smoke".

Ash responded that multiple academic studies had proved causality and said Forest was funded by the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association.