The British Board of Film Classification has revised its guidelines to allow references to drugs in ‘U’ rated films, if they are ‘infrequent and innocuous’. In the past such reference would have earned a film a ‘PG’ classification.

The body has, however, also decided that solvent abuse is a classification issue and such scenes are unlikely to be passed in a ‘15’ rated film. It is also taking a harder view on horror and sexual references in films at the‘12A’ or ‘12’ category.

The BBFC consults with the public every four years to ensure that its guidelines accurately reflect public attitudes and concerns. It has consulted almost 9,000 people aged 16 and over before reviewing its criteria.

The consultation process has revealed a more lenient public attitude to explicit images of real sex in mainstream films, such as 9 Songs, because of the context in which they have appeared. The ‘18’ classification will continue to maintain the right of adults to choose their own material subject to certain restrictions.

David Cooke, director of the BBFC, said: “The work of the BBFC is well known and understood by the UK public and this latest research shows that the BBFC’s decisions are in line with the vast majority of the public’s expectations.”

He added: “There may be criticism from some quarters that these changes are not more drastic or restrictive, but they are significant and will have an impact on our classification decisions. They also represent the views of the majority of the public.”

Films that are clearly in the ‘U’ or ‘15’, ‘PG’ or ‘12A’ categories would still remain in those categories, however films which fall on the borderline between two categories in the past, may now be re-categorised.