Governments should set higher age ratings for films that show smoking, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday, citing evidence that such influences cause more than one third of young smokers to take up the habit.
"With ever tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions," said Douglas Bettcher, WHO's top official for chronic disease prevention.
According to studies conducted in the United States, smoking in films accounts for 37 per cent of new adolescent smokers.
WHO said smoking was shown in 36 per cent of all Hollywood films that were rated as suitable for young people in 2014.
Many European films that top the revenue charts show smoking scenes, the UN health agency said.
The US Surgeon General has estimated that adult ratings on such films could avert 1 million long-term smoking-related deaths among today's children and adolescents in the United States.
WHO recommended that tobacco companies should not sponsor smoking scenes, that no cigarette brands should be shown on screen and that strong anti-tobacco spots should be shown before screenings of films in which actors smoke.