H/T Rose for the news that the Abhorrent Toad has been complaining about smoking on the reality TV show Love Island.
In its letter to Ofcom, seen by the Observer, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said: “I consider it reasonable to require programme-makers to have very strong justifications for showing smoking in a programme likely to be seen by young people, particularly if it depicts smoking by glamorous and attractive characters or people. I have seen no such justification in this case.”
An ITV spokesman responded: “The islanders are only shown smoking if this happens at the same time as they are having conversations we believe to be editorially important to the narrative of the show.” ITV insists that the contestants’ cigarettes are contained in plain white packs so that the show will not be seen to be promoting one brand. The Ofcom Code prohibits product placement of cigarettes or other tobacco products.
Isn’t reality TV supposed to reflect reality? And isn’t it the reality that a lot of people like to smoke, particularly in those social contexts where boy meets girl?
And isn’t it that these reality TV shows aren’t scripted? The participants aren’t reading lines. The Toad’s complaint might have been justified if Love Island was a scripted situation comedy, because the producers would have been putting words into the actors’ mouths, and cigarettes into their hands, and so been “promoting” smoking. But the producers aren’t making the participants say anything or do anything. They make cigarettes available to the participants, but they don’t tell them to smoke them. If the Toad is going to complain to anybody, shouldn’t it be to Chloe Crowhurst, left, and Amber Davies, right?
And isn’t it telling that the participants seem to only ever say anything “editorially important” – i.e. interesting – when they’re smoking?
The Toad’s particular complaint had been about the tobacco packets that are shown:
Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) is questioning why the contestants’ cigarettes are contained in plain white packs which hide the highly visible – and distinctly unglamorous – graphic health warnings that carry pictures of diseased lungs and references to male impotence.
But doesn’t this reflect the reality that many smokers don’t like these ugly packets, and so put their cigarettes or tobacco in another container? I do that myself all the time, keeping my tobacco in a tin without any brand name or health warnings on it. And when Dick Puddlecote dropped into the Smoky Drinky Bar last week, he had his cigarette pack contained inside a (very nice) larger Marlboro pack, which seemed to even have a magnetic snap lock on its lid. There were no health warnings on the larger pack, of course. Will Tobacco Control next be demanding that health warnings be added to such packs, which are presumably not being manufactured by Philip Morris? Or being manufactured under licence from Philip Morris (If Philip Morris manufactured cars as well as tobacco, would their cars have to carry health warnings?)?
Isn’t the Smoky Drinky Bar a sort of reality TV show? Is the Toad going to show up there too, and demand that all the cigarette ads be stripped from its walls, along with the No Antismoking signs and the Deborah Arnott dartboard and the ashtray(s) on the tables?