Film & Television

Much Ado About Smoke-Free Nollywood



The past week has been interesting: report, counter report and misinformation on the alleged ban of smoking scenes in Nollywood. Many respected names in Nigeria’s movie industry called out the move which stemmed from a speech credited to the Executive Director of the National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, Dr. Shaibu Husseini. He has since refuted claims that he announced a ban on smoking and ritual scenes in Nigerian films which made rounds in many media platforms last weekend.


The seasoned film critic and curator explained that as a classification board, the NFVCB will not implement any policy that will muzzle creativity.


“My attention has been drawn to a couple of trending headlines that suggest that the FG, through the NFVCB,  has “banned smoking and ritual scenes in Movies.” Interestingly, there is no part of the report following the headline where I was quoted to have announced the ban. I did NOT announce a ban on “smoking,” or smoking, and ritual scenes in movies” at the southeast zone stakeholders engagement on a healthy screen and the campaign to have a smoke free Nollywood which was held in Enugu in collaboration with CAPPAfrica . No, I did NOT. 


“What I mentioned in a speech that I have shared here is the existence of a regulation (NFVCB Regulations 2024) that in line with global best practices prohibits the PROMOTION and GLAMOURISATION of Money Ritual, Ritual Killing, Tobacco, Tobacco product, Nicotine products in movies, musical videos and skits. The regulation aims at discouraging the “unnecessary” depiction, promotion, advertisement, or glamourisation of tobacco or nicotine products in movies, musical videos, and skits.


“The regulation demands the display of a health warning for necessary smoking scenes that are required for historical accuracy, or for educational purposes, and to depict a negative lifestyle in movies, musical videos, and skits. The required health warning shall be displayed at the commencement of the work and at the end.


“Although we will issue an official position and cause the regulation to be published upon gazetting, I want to assure that as a classification board, we will not implement any policy that will muzzle creativity. Any movie, skit, or musical video that displays or depicts tobacco or nicotine products, brands, or use that is necessary to the realisation of a narrative shall be given the appropriate classification (rating) and shall not be shown to persons below the age of 18.”


  1. According to the United Nations, smoking in films can be a strong form of promotion for tobacco products. Indeed, the 180 Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are obliged by international law to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.


The WHO Smoke-Free Movie report, in line with the guidelines of article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), recommends policy measures including: requiring age classification ratings for films with tobacco imagery to reduce overall exposure of youth to tobacco imagery in films; certifying in movie credits that film producers receive nothing of value from anyone in exchange for using or displaying tobacco products in a film; ending display of tobacco brands in films; and requiring strong anti-smoking advertisements to be shown before films containing tobacco imagery in all distribution channels (cinemas, televisions, online, etc).

There has always been an ongoing argument about the media influence on human behaviour and it is mostly underrated. It is the spine of some media theories in media studies. But if the argument is examined on the merit of the lasting harm these media messaging can likely have on young viewers, then the anti-smoke movie campaign will not be treated like a movement against depicting life as it is onscreen. Even the art of creativity should be expressed responsibly.


Written by Yinka Olatunbosun, an arts and culture journalist.

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