China's New Year blockbuster "Let the Bullets Fly" was given a shame award Wednesday for its excessive smoking scenes, a new move taken by anti-smoking groups to ridicule Chinese films that promote smoking.
Let the Bullets Fly.
Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, a government affiliated group headed by Vice Health Minister Huang Jifu, announced the "Dirty Ashtray Award" as it disclosed the results at an annual smoking scene review of films and television series.
The association also gave "No Smoking Scene Awards" to 18 films and series. However, no one came to pick the awards at Wednesday's award presenting ceremony.
"Let the Bullets Fly" has the most smoking scenes, or every 1.65 minutes one smoking scene, among the 40 most popular films over the past year, said Suo Chao, an official of the association.
"The film broke box office records, but the scale of its smoking scenes is also shocking," Suo said.
The "Bullets," a film featuring banditry in 1920s in southwestern Sichuan Province, is on track to smash the domestic box office record of 673 million yuan set by director Feng Xiaogang's quake film "Aftershock."
Xu Guihua, deputy director of the association, said if boys believe smoking is a way of demonstrating their masculinity after seeing the film, China has little hope of significantly reducing the current male smoking rate of over 66 percent.
She said health experts worldwide are urging the World Health Organization (WHO) in September to set a target of reducing global smoking rate to five percent by 2040.
China has the world's largest number of smokers - 350 million - and a deep-rooted tobacco culture. Smoking-related diseases kill roughly 1.2 million Chinese every year.
Though the government has adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), implementation is slow largely due to the interference of the tobacco industry, health experts have said.
In February, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) ordered film and TV series makers to restrict smoking scenes and to ban shots showing tobacco brands or minors in scenes with others lighting up.
Xu, a doctor by training and former deputy head of China's Center of Disease Control and Prevention, said minors are three times more likely to end up smoking if they frequently see smoking scenes on the screen and they are 16 times more likely to smoke if they see the celebrities they like lighting up.
She said the association's annual smoking scene review shows smoking scenes in films were down 52.56 percent from 2007 to 2010, but smoking shots in TV series were up 14.15 percent over the same period of time.