This film is part of Free

Smoking and You

The anti-smoking campaign starts here, with the first ever anti-tobacco film – and very impressive it is too.

Public Information Filler 1963 11 mins


The gradual decline of cigarette smoking is one of the great public health stories of the second half of the twentieth century. Film and TV play a huge role in that story, starting right here with Smoking and You, the very first official screen contribution to decades of health education campaigning. The film, made on a tight budget by the innovative documentary maker Derrick Knight, lays out the facts with an impressive directness, confronting smokers and potential smokers with increasingly devastating information, while montages of hidden-camera footage make smoking look distinctly unattractive.

The film was commissioned in the wake of 1962 Royal College of Physicians report that caused a sea-change in public policy on smoking (though government initially resisted curbs on tobacco advertising, which had much bigger budgets behind it). It went on to wide distribution both in Britain and abroad, where it was sold in to other countries’ public health campaigns. Knight's stark documentary approach contrasts with the breezy wit and stylisation deployed, equally effectively, by Sarah Erulkar in The Smoking Machine (1964, also available on BFI Player). The difference is down not just to the two filmmakers’ different skillsets but their intended audiences: Erulkar was briefed to target kids of primary school age, and Knight children and young adults of secondary school age. The presence of the smoking machine, a mechanical R&D device that 'smokes' numerous cigarettes simultaneously, provides a creepy highlight - or lowlight – of both films.