Here is something obvious-smoking is not good for you. This has been known for probably the best part of 50 years. No one in western societies who has started smoking since the mid 1970s can claim that they were not aware of this. Advertising has been virtually abolished and the packs carry warnings and sometimes pictures of diseases related to smoking such as lung cancer.

Rates of smoking have declined significantly from over 70% of adults in the 1950s to 20% or less today. Australian figures for teenagers show rates of around 5% which augers well for the future.

However despite all the information available about the problems associated with smoking some people continue to choose to smoke.  Now I would encourage all of those people to quit, but some will choose not to-and that is their right. This fact though is unable to be accepted by those in public health who feel that everyone should act only in a way that is good for them and bring an almost religious zeal to their application of science.

This has led to increasingly bizarre claims, the latest of which involves the movie Avatar. One of the characters in the movie smokes. This has seen calls for the movie to have warnings about this or even a higher rating and accusations that the movie is pro smoking.

Really?? Now lets compare Avatar to another recent movie, It’s Complicated. In this there is a scene where two of the lead characters get drunk and another where two lead characters get stoned on a marihuana joint. Does this make the movie pro drunkenness or pro illicit drug use? Of course not. The film has the same classification as Avatar in Australia (although different in the USA). Was the movie Inglorious Bastards pro Nazi because some of the characters in the movie were Nazis?

Of course not and the fact that one character in a movie smokes does not make a movie pro smoking. Interestingly there has been no reaction from the holier than thou brigade to the scenes in It’s Complicated. If seeing one movie will lead to a flood of new smokers why will another not lead to the same outcome with alcohol and marihuana? Are not all three health issues?

Here is the bottom line. Cigarette smoking is a choice some people make. It is not a disease. The medicalizing of smoking with stop smoking pills together with labeling people as addicts dis-empowers them from taking charge of their health.

The choices we make are our responsibility. Blaming a movie for them is saying that we are absolved of the responsibility for our decisions because we have watched a movie.

The only person responsible for your choices is you. You have the power to make the best choices for you and in turn you will reap the benefits.