Tobbacco ads to go off electronic, print media: Health ministry

NEW DELHI: The government is determined to choke out publicity and promotional initiatives undertaken by tobacco and tobacco-related products.

Advertisement and promotion of tobacco and its products in the electronic and print media is slated to be banned in India in about a week's time.



A senior information and broadcasting ministry official confirmed that the health ministry, in this regard, has initiated a move. "As and when the law is in place, the I&B ministry, being the nodal ministry for media, would see that it is implemented and take steps in this regard after consultation with the media industry," the official added.

The rules and regulations for the ban are "ready" and these will be notified in eight to 10 days, UNI reports, quoting health minister Sushma Swaraj, stated today.

The notification comes in the wake of yesterday's Cabinet approval for ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly (WHA) on 24 May, 1999.

When the ban comes through it may not only result in loss of revenue for TV as well as print medium products, but also has the potential of starting another controversy as was seen when the I&B ministry had started cracking down on surrogate liquor ads on the TV channels.

Though even some surrogate tobacco product-related ads (Cavender and Four Square adventure gears, for instance) have stopped or lessened exposure on television, it is to be seen whether telecast of events like Manikchand Filmfare Awards are allowed by the government. Manikchand is diversified group, but is also manufacturers of chewing tobacco products.

Similarly, some tobacco companies, also active in the hospitality and other sectors, heavily sponsor musical performances by renowned artistes as also sporting events like golf and tennis. Whether telecast or coverage of these events would also be deemed fit, as per the new proposal, is yet to be seen.

"We cannot speculate on the future turn of events now and would tackle the situation as and when they crop up," the I&B ministry official clarified when asked whether the government is looking at banning broadcast and coverage of aforementioned events, for instance.

India will be the seventh country to ratify the FCTC. Among the nations that have already ratified the Convention are Sri Lanka, Fiji, Malta, Norway and Seychelles, the agencies reported, adding at least 40 countries have to ratify the convention to make it globally applicable, except in countries constrained by constitutional limitations, the Minister said.

The other provisions of the convention include price and tax measures to reduce demand for tobacco and non-price measures such as protection from the exposure to tobacco smoke. The convention also proposes regulation of contents of tobacco products, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors and provision for financial resources in developing countries for the purpose of finding economically viable alternative in tobacco growing and for implementing tobacco control programmes.

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