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I&B ministry clueless on tobacco ad ban implementation

NEW DELHI: The Indian government has brought about a ban on promotional activities of tobacco and tobacco-related products like chewing tobacco, but it has no mechanism in place to see effective implementation and monitoring of the ban.

Most of the promotional activities that were being undertaken by tobacco companies were in various segments of media and the nodal ministry for this sector, information and broadcasting ministry, is totally clueless on the issue.

 

According to a senior official in the I&B ministry, the ban, effective from 1 May, has been put into effect through a notification issued by the health ministry, which has not communicated anything till now to the I&B ministry on its monitoring aspects.

"It has been brought to our notice off and on that surrogate advertising relating to tobacco products continue on various TV channels, but we have not been told to set up a monitoring mechanism, " the official told indiantelevision.com

The tobacco industry, which contributes approximately Rs 70 billion to the government by way of excise, will be forced to cut down Rs 2,500 million of their advertising budget with the ban. According to industry sources, the ban is going to take a heavy toll on tobacco companies, outdoor ad agencies, hoarding suppliers, charity organizations that rely very much on the tobacco companies' sponsorships, etc.

For example, the much-touted Filmfare Award has Manikchand as the presenting sponsor, a company that is a big player in the flavoured chewing tobacco products category, apart from having business interests in other sectors like real estate. Similarly, Red & White cigarette brand also backs an annual bravery award event where achievers from normal life are feted.

Quizzed on the monitoring aspect of the tobacco ban, a health ministry official explained that there were early days of the ban and over a period of time the effort would be to put in place a monitoring mechanism.

Even the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), an apex body of broadcasting companies operating in India, is clueless on the issue, though it has a sub-committee that screens surrogate liquor advertisements.

A source in the IBF, when asked about the ban, evasively said, "The issue has not (NOT) been brought to the Foundation yet. But if told by the I&B ministry the members may discuss the matter."

It seems that the media is waiting for the I&B ministry to show the path ahead, while the ministry itself is unsure about the whole issue.

But experts say that the media does stand to loose revenue with this ban. According to Starcom Worldwide India (west/south) managing director Ravi Kiran, print would lose approximately Rs 1,000 million, while TV will see Rs 350 million evaporating. A Rs 100 million loss is estimated for cinema, while for outdoor hoarding it could be Rs 600 million. Internet, radio and sports, however, would suffer only negligible loses with the ban, he says.

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