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The burning desire.

  • Taylor, Peter, 1942-
  • Videos

About this work


In the second of two programmes, Peter Taylor considers the development of electronic or e-cigarettes, which are claimed to be far safer than conventional cigarettes. The tobacco industry is pouring vast amounts of money into the devices, which could make smoking socially acceptable again. Yet some view e-cigarettes as a smokescreen, deflecting negative press from the industry’s core business of selling tobacco. An estimated 2 million ‘vapers’ currently use e-cigarettes in the UK. British American Tobacco (BAT) was the first to launch the products in the UK. The company spends 160 million annually on developing new, safer products. According to BAT’s Scientific Director David O’Reilly, the nicotine contained in e-cigarettes is no more harmful than a cup of coffee – a claim refuted by leading paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, who cites the drug’s addictive properties. The rise of e-cigarettes has outpaced regulation, prompting a return to previously banned marketing outlets including sports sponsorship, television commercials and product placement in music videos. Mike Daube from the Australian Council on Smoking on Health is in no doubt; e-cigarettes are ‘a weapon of mass distraction’ and marketing dream for tobacco companies. The UK’s largest brand, E-Lites, sponsor Worcester Warriors rugby club. Taylor challenges the company’s Chief Executive, Adrian Everett, accusing him of normalising smoking. Yet e-cigarettes have helped many smokers to quit. In a deprived area of Derbyshire, where smoking rates are double the national average, GP Dr John Ashcroft has set up his own shop to sell the products. As yet, there is no direct evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking for young people. But the anti-tobacco lobby are finding it hard to trust an industry that has lied and disassembled for so many years. Meanwhile in the developing world where 80% of smokers live, marketing restrictions are limited or non-existent. Taylor travels to East Timor, the country with the highest smoking rate for men in the world. Jorge Luna of the World Health Organisation says that smoking rates amongst young people are rising year on year. Taylor interviews the country’s Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, who has no plans to introduce legislation, despite his Australian wife’s role as an anti-tobacco campaigner for UNESCO. In East Timor’s schools, children as young as 10 smoke openly. Taylor considers the history of cigarette adverting. The world’s biggest tobacco company Phillip Morris has recently launched a controversial new campaign, ‘Be Marlborough’, aimed unashamedly at young people. The campaign was launched in Germany, where cigarette advertising is still permitted in cinemas. An internet campaign swiftly followed. Although Marlborough claims its models are over 30, their clothing and poses resemble those of teenagers. The campaign was subsequently banned by a German court, but has since been rolled out worldwide. Taylor journeys to Argentina, which has the highest rates of smoking in South America. While the country has signed up to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it has never been ratified. The industry is quick to exploit loopholes in legislation, expanding point of sale displays to permit extensive advertising. Although smoking is not permitted in public places, the law is not enforced. Argentina is the second largest tobacco producer in South America, which may explain the industry’s relative freedom. In neighbouring Uruguay, the climate is rather more hostile. The country has the most stringent anti-smoking legislation on the continent, prompting Phillip Morris to sue for an estimated 2 billion dollars on IP grounds over health warnings on cigarette packaging. Former President and oncologist Tabaré Vázquez, who introduced the ruling, describes smoking as the worst pandemic that mankind has endured. Australia is fighting a similar legal battle, and BAT is primed to sue should plain packaging be introduced in the UK. The programme concludes with footage from Taylor’s previous documentaries on the topic, dating back 40 years.


UK : BBC2, 2014.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color


Broadcast on 5 June, 2014

Creator/production credits

Series produced and directed by Mike Rudin

Copyright note

BBC Productions 2014



  • English

Where to find it

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