Two court judgements, and one official communiqué later, Tamil Nadu has re-launched a drive to curb direct and indirect advertisement of tobacco products at the point of sale.
Section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade, Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Amendment) Rules, 2005, prohibits all forms of advertisement, direct, indirect, surrogate, and promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products. However, the implementation of this rule was held up after the Bombay High Court stayed it, on appeal from some manufacturers, in 2006.
In January this year, the Supreme Court vacated the stay order of the Bombay High Court. This cleared the decks for re-implementation of the rule. In January, Union Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju also set a note to all States, urging implementation of the Rules. “After a gap of over six years, we have launched this campaign again,” says P.Vadivelan, State Tobacco Control officer. A team of officials comprising Chennai Corporation, Police, and State Tobacco Control unit formed a strike team to remove hoardings from various points of sale in North Chennai.
“While we started in North Chennai, the campaign will be on in the entire state. We have informed the districts already,” Dr. Vadivelan added. “There are clear specifications as per the Act as to how to display boards advertising for tobacco products,” explains Prasanna Kannan, WHO Consultant, State Tobacco Control Unit. Training has been provided to staff on these requirements, so that they can remove hoardings or boards that do not conform to these standards.
The size of the board used for the advertisements of cigarettes or any other tobacco product, displayed at the entrance of a shop selling such products cannot exceed the size 60 cm*45 cm. Each board must also contain, in the language appropritate to the area, a prominent warning that ‘Tobacco causes Cancer’, or ‘Tobacco Kills.’ There are even specifications for the size, legibility and display colours for this text.
The board can list the type of tobacco products available (such as cigarette, pan masala) but not the brand name of the product, or any other promotional message or picture. It cannot even be backlit or illuminated in any
“This sort of advertising is more common in the cities, rather than in rural areas. So, our focus will be on the cities, and towns, but we will also ensure that rural areas are covered in the State, Dr. Vadivelan said.