THE favourite daughter of Swansea, the anti-smoking capital of Wales, has found herself in the firing line for lighting up on screen.
As council officials in Swansea prepare for No Smoking Day on Wednesday, Catherine Zeta-Jones has become the target of anti-smok- ing groups.
They are fuming at new research which shows on-screen indulgence in cigarettes is back to 1950s levels, when stars such as Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart frequently lit up.
Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, alongside other stars like Nicole Kidman and Pierce Brosnan, has been blamed for helping to glamourise smoking by doing it on the big screen.
And last night Welsh Assembly Culture Minister Alun Pugh, who wants to outlaw smoking at all arts venues, condemned the rise of on-screen smoking.
He said it was a cynical ruse by cigarette manufacturers to beat advertising restrictions.
He said, "I'm certainly not against the portrayal of realism in film but you have to understand that cigarette companies use product placement as a way of getting around advertising bans."
An analysis of 150 films produced between 1950 and 2002 has found there are now around 11 depictions of smoking in every hour of the typical film.
The incidence of smoking, according to the study by scientists at the University of California, has risen steadily over the past decade.
It is even higher than the corresponding figure for the 1940s and 1950s when films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window and Vertigo portrayed a highly glamourised image of cigarettes.
Box office hits such as Chicago starred Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger as characters who smoked.
Nicole Kidman played a smoker in The Hours and Charlize Theron's best actress award was won playing a murderous smoker in Monster.
This week, Swansea City and County Council will launch an anti-smoking campaign from the city's first smoking-free pub, The Lounge Bar.
Leaflets and information packs will be handed out and council and Lounge Bar staff will be wearing no-smoking T-shirts, hats and banners.
But Deborah Arnottt, director of Ash, the British anti-smoking organisation said good work like that could be undone unless tougher restrictions were based on film content.
She said, "I'm not so concerned about seeing Charlize Theron smoking in a film like Monster because she is playing a psychotic and is not meant to be a role model.
"It is a different story however when James Bond picks up a cigar in Die Another Day because he is very much a glamour figure."
However, a spokesman for Forest, the pro-smoking campaign group, said depictions of violence and gratuitous sex in films were far more damaging.
The American study showed that films in the 1950s showed an average of 10.5 incidents of smoking an hour.
Health lobbyists pressurising film makers led to this figure falling to just 4.9 between 1980 and 1982 but the figure is now 10.9.
Modern films looked at in the study included Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, the Bond film Die Another Day and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
The 1950s movies included Jailhouse Rock starring Elvis Presley and A Star is Born with Judy Garland.
A spokesman for the School of Medicine at the University of California where the study was done echoed Mr Pugh's view that product placement was behind the rise in on screen smoking.
He said, "Films that feature smoking are worth millions to the tobacco companies in terms of advertising. This is particularly true in the UK where there are strict controls on tobacco advertising."
Mr Pugh, who wants to see an all-Wales ban on smoking in public places also wants cinemas, theatres and other arts venues to become smoke free because of the dangers of passive smoking.
He said, "It's unfair that people working in venues who do not smoke and people who go to productions who do not smoke have to put up with passive smoking."