NGO concerned over tobacco scenes in films

Five months after the Union ministry of health and family welfare notified the rules for cigarettes and other tobacco products (Prohibition of advertisement and Regulation of trade and commerce, production, supply and distribution), the Voluntary Health Association of Assam (VHAA) on Thursday demanded proper implementation of the prohibitory order for the sake of Gen X.

Sexy Smoking Man

Smoking scene in a Bollywood movie

The VHAA, an NGO that is continuously pressing the state government to make the state a tobacco-free zone, rued that the authorities concerned are running a scroll with anti-tobacco health warnings at the bottom of the screen during smoking scenes.

“The young generation watches movies very closely and if they see a film star smoking, they too will want to smoke. We are concerned about the non-implementation of the prohibitory orders in Assam,” said Ruchira Neog, executive secretary of the association.

“We are deeply concerned and disappointed to learn that the Union ministry of information & broadcasting has issued directives to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to defer the implementation of the rules on the grounds of practical difficulties, overlooking public health benefits. This stand of the ministry is unfortunate, especially when there can be no difficulty in implementing the rules,” she noted.

India is the world’s largest producer of movies where more than 1,000 movies a year are released in several languages.

Neog stated that movies have a deep influence on kids and teens. Studies in developed countries have already established that exposure to smoking in Hollywood movies leads to increased risk of smoking among adolescents.

A recent study, ‘Tobacco use in Bollywood movies, tobacco promotional activities and their association with tobacco use among Indian adolescents’, conducted among 4,000 students from 12 schools across New Delhi revealed that the odds of using tobacco once or more in a lifetime among students who were highly exposed to tobacco-use scenes in Bollywood films were more than twice as compared to those with low exposure.

The rules prohibit display and placement of brand names and logos of tobacco products in old as well as new films and TV programmes. Display of brands either through close-ups of products, packages or product placements amounts to ‘advertising’ a particular brand and this is a violation of Section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.

A study conducted by World Health Organization and the central ministry of health and family welfare in 2003 revealed that 76% of Indian movies had tobacco use shown in them and 52.2% of children in India who had their first smoke were influenced by tobacco use depicted in movies.

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