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Govt tightens screws on smoking scenes in films, TV

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NEW DELHI: The Government has tightened the screws for smoking scenes in films and television. It has directed that all films and television programmes made before 14 November 2011 and showing consumption of tobacco or liquor will have to mandatorily display anti-tobacco health spots or messages of minimum 30 seconds duration each at the beginning and middle of the film or the television programme.

There will also be an anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent scroll at the bottom of the screen during the period of such display. Such programmes will be telecast at timings that are likely to have least viewership of minors.

This has been stated in the rules for Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) [second amendment rules] 2011.

These rules will be implemented from 14 November 2011. The rules have been notified after consultation and taking into account the views of Information and Broadcasting Ministry to make it more practical and implementable.

For new films and TV programmes, the producers will have to give‘a strong editorial justification’ for display of tobacco products or their use to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) along with UA certification.

The producers will also have to run a disclaimer of 20 seconds duration by the concerned actor regarding the ill effects of the use of such products, in the beginning and middle of the film or television programme; anti-tobacco health spots or messages, of minimum 30-second duration each at the beginning and middle of the film or the television programme; and anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent scroll at the bottom of the screen during the period of such display.

The CBFC will be asked to have a representative of the Health and Family Welfare Ministry.

In order to restrict blatant display of tobacco brands in old films and TV programmes, these rules make it mandatory to crop /mask display of brands of cigarettes or any other tobacco product or any forms of product placement, close-ups and for new films and TV programmes such scenes shall be edited/blurred by the producer prior to screening. The ban on display of tobacco products or its usage also extends to promotional materials and posters as well.

The Ministry said for the tobacco industry, films provide an opportunity to convert a deadly product into a status symbol or token of independence. The role of movies as vehicles for promoting tobacco use has become even more important as other forms of tobacco promotion are constrained. This investment is part of a wider and more complex marketing strategy to support pro-tobacco social norms, including product placement in mass media, sponsorship and other modalities.

There are experimental and observational studies to show that tobacco use in films influences young people‘s beliefs about social norms for smoking, as well as their beliefs about the function and consequences of smoking and their personal intention to use tobacco. Consistent with the findings of these epidemiological studies, a number of experimental studies have confirmed that seeing tobacco usage in film shifts attitude in favour of tobacco use , and that an anti-tobacco advertisement shown prior to a film with tobacco use blunts the effect of smoking imagery.

The Government had enacted the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, in 2003 with the objective to protect the present and future generation from the adverse harm effects of tobacco usage and second hand smoke, through imposing progressive restriction.

According to Section 5 of the Act, all forms of advertisement (direct, indirect/surrogate) promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products is prohibited. However, it was observed that when the advertising, promotion and sponsorship ban went into force, tobacco companies developed new marketing strategies to circumvent the law through depiction of tobacco use scenes and brand placement of tobacco products in movies.

In 2003, WHO conducted a study on the portrayal of tobacco in Indian cinema and its impact on youth audience before the passage of the COTPA. A second study a year later titled"Tobacco In Movies and Impact on Youth" documented changes in Bollywood‘s tobacco imagery. This research found the following:

Key Findings WHO study (2003) Study by Burning BrainSociety supported by WHO/MoH (2005)
Total tobacco containing movies 76% 89%
Lead character smoking 40.9% 75.5%
Tobacco brands/product placement and visibility 15.7% 41.0%

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