PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Films that depict actors smoking cigarettes should carry the same age classification as those containing sex and violence, according to experts.
The claim comes after a new study revealed that teenagers are more likely to take up the deadly habit after watching movies which glamorise smoking.
Researchers from the University of Bristol found that 15-year-olds who saw the most films showing actors puffing on a cigarette were 73% more likely to have tried one than those who has seen the least. They were also almost 50% more likely to be a current smoker than those least exposed.
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies has called on the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Government to review their policies on film classification, arguing that under-18s need to be protected from potentially harmful imagery.
Dr Andrea Waylen, who led the medical research, said: "More than half the films shown in the UK that contain smoking are rated UK15 or below, so children and young teenagers are clearly exposed.
"Our results confirm an association between this exposure and youth smoking in this country, indicating that raising the certification to 18 in the UK is likely to lower smoking rates among youth."
The doctor, from University of Bristol's School of Oral and Dental Sciences, added: "Films ought to be rated by exposure to smoking in the same way that they are currently rated by level of violence. Such a policy would also make the movie ratings system consistent with the ban on tobacco advertising in all other media."
More than 5,000 adolescents were asked whether they had seen 50 films randomly selected from 366 box office hits released between 2001 and 2005 as part of the study. They included movies like Spider-Man, Bridget Jones and The Matrix.
The data, published in an article in the journal Thorax, was then compared with whether the individual had ever tried a cigarette or were current smokers.
The BBFC said its current guidelines were "proportionate; take due account of the available evidence of harm; and reflect the clear wishes of the public".