Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino has joined a host of filmmakers who are fighting plans to ban smoking in Italian movies.

The country's health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, is backing plans to cleanse cigarettes from the big screen and declared she wants to see "regulation" of smoking in films.

A group of writers and filmmakers, including The Great Beauty director Sorrentino, have now written an open letter to Lorenzin voicing their fury and accusing the Italian government of censorship.

The letter, published in Italian newspaper La Repubblica, reads, "We have to say that we are shocked and worried that a norm could emerge that would be really ridiculous. The idea that a lawmaker could intervene in the stories of characters that are told in a work, beautiful or ugly as it may be, is very upsetting to our liberal convictions."