NEW DELHI

Tobacco promotion on screen mock health warnings



Bindu Shajan Perappadan

Challenges film industry's claims that it can be trusted to "self-regulate''



`89 per cent of films released after the proposed tobacco ban included branded tobacco imagery'Health advocates have warned that India is an irresistible target for multinational tobacco companies



NEW DELHI: Despite the film industry's promise to self-police tobacco promotion on screen, tobacco brands popped up in more than 40 per cent of Indian films released since 2004. That is almost three times more since the Central Government's move to enforce a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

As per a research study by Chandigarh-based non-government organisation Burning Brain Society and supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), 89 per cent of films released and analysed after the proposed tobacco advertising ban included generic or branded tobacco imagery. This is significantly up from the 76 per cent of Indian films with tobacco as reported by a WHO study in 2003.

"Indian films are being turned into blatant cigarette commercials,'' says the study lead by investigator Hemant Goswami, chairperson of Burning Brain Society.

"We know about product placements and payoffs, sheer numbers tell us that tobacco companies recently barred from advertising their products through other forms of mass media are rushing to use motion pictures instead,'' he adds. The burst of tobacco brands display in films challenges the film industry's claims that it can be trusted to "self-regulate''.

The survey also found that 31 per cent of recent Bollywood movies showing tobacco actually mocked or contradicted health warnings. A third of the films explicitly promoted tobacco use in a very subtle way. Health advocates have warned that India's liberalised economy having a 500 million population under 18 is an irresistible target for multinational tobacco companies.



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