Two new anti-Tobacco health spots for 'Tobacco-Free Film Rules' released under COTPA

NEW DELHI: Two new anti-tobacco spots titled ‘Child’ and ‘Dhuan’ have been released by the Health Ministry to be screened on movies and television whenever smoking scenes are depicted, even as studies have shown very little effect of government’s attempts to prevent smoking scenes.

The spots have been released under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) rules and will be effective from today. These spots have been dubbed in 16 Indian languages for a pan India coverage. It is mandatory for cinema halls to prominently display these spots whenever smoking scenes are shown as part of the movie. These spots were released to media by Health Ministry Additional Secretary C K Mishra.

Interestingly, studies undertaken by the Ministry in collaboration with the World Health Organisation after the promulgation of  “The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act” (COTPA) shows that while 76 per cent films were depicting tobacco use in 2003, this had increased to 89 per cent in 2006.

Similarly, the percentage of the lead character shown smoking had gone up from 40.9 per cent to 75.5 per cent in these years, of the films which showed tobacco scenes. Tobacco brands/product placement and visibility also rose from 15.7 per cent to 41 per cent between 2003 and 2006.

In 2003 before COTPA was enforced, the Ministry with the support of World Health Organization commissioned the study titled “Bollywood: Victim or Ally” to help develop a strategy to reduce smoking in films.  The aim of the study was to understand the extent to which movies impact youth’s lifestyles and the impact of portrayal of tobacco in Indian films

In 2006, after COTPA 2003 banned tobacco advertisements of any kind, another study was commissioned to document changes in tobacco imagery in films.

 The anti-tobacco health spots and disclaimers are being provided by the Ministry under the COTPA Rules. Two spots ‘Mukesh’ and ‘Sponge’ depicting harmful effect of usage of smokeless and smoking forms of tobacco were used with effect from 2 October 2012.

Speaking at the media launch of the two new spots, Mishra said since 2 October 2013 marks the completion of five years of implementation of smoke-free laws in India, the launch of these two spots, ‘Child’ and ‘Dhuan’,  reinforces the government’s emphasis on the issue of secondhand smoke and implementation of smoke-free policies in India. While the narrative at present is more on control on smoking, the Ministry will soon move towards the smokeless form of tobacco. He said that the ban on ‘gutka’ was a major achievement in the direction of banning the use of tobacco in the country.

‘Child’ and ‘Dhuan’  have been developed to warn about the health costs of smoking and second hand smoke and of the penalties to be faced by violating the smoke free law.  ‘Child’ focuses on the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke, while ‘Dhuan’ especially models the behavior expected of business managers, advocates, enforcement officials, smokers and non-smokers. The spots have been developed by World Lung Foundation (WLF).

COTPA was aimed at regulating consumption, production, supply and distribution of tobacco products, by imposing restrictions on advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products; prohibiting smoking in public places; prohibiting sale to and by minors, prohibiting sale within a radius of 100 yards of educational institutions and through mandatory depiction of specified pictorial health warnings on all tobacco product packs.  

Section 5 of COTPA prohibits all forms of advertisements, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.

The 2006 study clearly established that tobacco imagery, including brand display had markedly increased in the wake of tobacco advertising bans in other media. Consequently, COTPA’s rules were refined in 2005 to meet the challenge of tobacco imagery in films. However, these rules could only be implemented from 2 October, 2012 after addressing all the implementation concerns of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

As per the Rules all films and TV programmes certified/produced on or after 2 October, 2012 that depict tobacco product or its use must have a strong editorial justification explaining the necessity of display of tobacco products or its use (to the Central Board of Film Certification); anti-Tobacco Health Spot of 30 seconds duration each (beginning and middle); anti-Tobacco Audio Visual Disclaimer of 20 seconds duration each (beginning and middle); anti-Tobacco Health Warning as a prominent static message during the period of display of tobacco products or their use.

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