Smoking Guns

In Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel, British secret agent James Bond was a chain-smoking 70-a-day man. But in the new version of Casino Royale I hope to watch this weekend, the only smoke we’ll see will come from 007’s Walther PPK automatic.

Smoking is no longer welcome at the movies. Philip Morris’s leading brand, Marlboro, is reckoned to have featured in 74 of Hollywood’s top-grossing films in the past 15 years, but this week the world’s largest tobacco manufacturer ran up a white flag. “We do not want our brands or brand imagery depicted in movies and television shows,” reads an ad running this week in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and other industry publications.

Is this what the endgame for Big Tobacco looks like? Here in Europe, home of the moody, espresso-primed drag, public policy and opinion are swinging decisively into action. Ireland, Italy, Malta, Norway and Sweden have all banished tobacco from the workplace, restaurants and even pubs. Spain’s partial ban allows smoking only in tapas bars and cafés or lounges. Even in France, a coming decree will ban smoking in restaurants next year, and in all public places from 2008.

Now in Italy an association of personnel managers has this week recommended smokers’ pay be cut on the grounds that workers who take smoking breaks do an hour a day less work than others.

Big Tobacco looks further east to China for a breather from this onslaught. But with the Chinese government promising a tobacco-free Olympics when the world’s heaviest smoking nation hosts the event in 2008, it seems prospects for the cigarette business are finally being stubbed out.