A partnership organisation led by a primary care trust is campaigning for under-18s to be banned from watching films that feature characters who smoke.

Paula Grey, joint director of public health for Liverpool PCT and city council, will write to the British Board of Film Classification to lobby for the ban on behalf of Smoke Free Liverpool, which is jointly led by the two bodies.

Speaking to HSJ after giving evidence to the Commons health select committee's inquiry on health inequalities, she said: "Smoking is portrayed as cool - the hero does it. It's that positive perception of smoking that we know is so bad for children. This is about applying the same rules to smoking as to swear words, violence or explicit sex."

Dr Grey said she is considering approaching Liverpool city council's licensing committee to introduce local ratings for films if the BBFC ignores her request.

The partnership has produced research which it says suggests that more than 1,600 children in the city take up smoking each year as a result of seeing smoking in films.

A BBFC spokeswoman said: "We do take smoking into account but we have no intention of rating films 18 solely because they contain smoking."