Healthcare providers and advocates for a tobacco-free society claim they are shocked at the latest plan of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to replace health warnings shown during movie scenes showing smoking.
“Leading film-makers in the country have submitted a representation to the government to withdraw the requirement for cinema halls to run a warning scroll whenever smoking scenes are shown on the screen,” said Voluntary Health Association of India director Seema Gupta.
She added that current film rules have been extremely effective in deglamourising the use of tobacco in films.
“We should not succumb to pressure by the film industry,” Ms. Gupta added.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had in 2012 brought out a notification prohibiting smoking in films. Later, amended rules came into effect to remove practical difficulties faced in implementation of some erstwhile provisions.
The objective was that the government is able to create anti-tobacco awareness through spots/disclaimers/message, without incurring any cost. In addition, each time there was smoking on screen, a static message stating “Smoking is Injurious to Health” was to appear prominently on the screen.
“The interest of Bollywood is in direct conflict with public health. While they are vociferous in exercising their freedom, but they wilfully act ignorant about their duty towards society. Tobacco menace is an extraordinary problem and we need extraordinary solutions such as the censor board notification,” said Pankaj Chaturvedi, an oncologist at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.
India is one of the world’s largest producer of movies and film actors are public figures with huge fan following. They also exercise tremendous influence on behavioural attitudes of adolescents.
According to a study, titled “Tobacco Use in Bollywood Movies, Tobacco Promotional Activities And Their Association With Tobacco Use Among Indian Adolescents”, conducted among 4,000 students in 12 schools across New Delhi, the odds of using tobacco once or more in a lifetime among students who were highly exposed to tobacco use occurrences in Bollywood films are more than twice as compared to those with low exposure, noted Ms. Gupta.