4 Feb 2014

Restricting Role of TV and Films as Vehicle of Promoting Tobacco

Television and Films are the most popular medium of entertainment and information dissemination. In both, rural and urban India the impact created by cinema and television programmes on public mind is massive and ineffaceable in many respects. Fashions and life-styles shown in films become popular overnight. Exposure to smoking in movies promotes tobacco as normal and associates it with style and glamour.
A qualitative analysis of TV and Film contents shows that movies are an obsession. India produces more than 900 films a year in different languages watched by over 188 million viewers every year. Satellite television has increased the outreach to a much larger audience. There are dozens of movie channels that telecast movies round the clock.  The entertainment channels also show movies and reach 60-70% of the cable and satellite audience. Films and film-based programmes account for 25% to 30% of programming content and are the key viewership drivers for all general entertainment channels.
It is pointed out by many scientific studies that the electronic images depicting smoking and tobacco use promotes the harmful and deleterious habit of smoking among youngsters, who happen to be the most vulnerable segment of the society. The role of motion pictures in promoting tobacco has been clearly reflected in many studies. Since in India and other such underdeveloped countries the literacy rate is too low so for most of these people, what is seen is often believed and followed. Hence, mass media and movies are an unfortunate but very powerful tool in the hands of tobacco companies.
The instances of females consuming tobacco in movies has also increased in India pointing towards a specific market expansion strategy by tobacco companies using movies as a vehicle. Studies suggest that the tobacco companies specifically position their products to attract female smokers from all segments, strata and age groups of society. The tobacco companies’ communications targeting females is carefully designed for younger women stressing on female camaraderie, self confidence, freedom, and independence; cigarette brands for older women are tailored to address the needs for pleasure, relaxation, social acceptability, and escape from daily stresses. In many movies, the female leads are shown smoking in style, which is seen emulating by many young girls. Beauty, success, emotional and physical toughness, independence and rebelliousness have often been associated with female smoking. In many instances even the cigarette brand has been deliberately shown at the subliminal level.
A survey depicts that seventy nine of the hundred and ten movies analyzed, presented smoking or tobacco with glamour and style. A sizeable number of movies related tobacco with stressful situation and thereby projecting tobacco as a panacea to all kinds of stress and tension. The false association of tobacco as a stress reliever has been created in sixty one of the hundred and ten movies analyzed. The association of tobacco with stress is factually and scientifically incorrect. There are no medical studies to even point that tobacco reduces stress.  The association of tobacco with stress only promotes the tobacco industry marketing theme that smoking/tobacco reduces stress. It’s a scientific fact that tobacco is the major cause of hypertension and increased the chances of an infraction many folds.
False association of tobacco and smoking with glamour, bravery, success, stress etc. needs to put to an end immediately if the tobacco control efforts have to succeed and if millions of lives are to be saved.
The promotion of harmful substances like tobacco through mass media is undeniably against the established research of science’ against the direction provided by the Indian constitution and has the regrettable ability to degenerate the young people and hence the future of India and any civilization of the world.
In conclusion, the role of TV and movies as vehicles for promoting tobacco use has become even more important to be checked 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. Not only the tobacco traders but many of the film producers, directors and actors have also opposed ban on screening tobacco in films.
New Notification for Movies, TV Programmes Displaying Tobacco Products
With effect from 14.11.2011

In 2003, WHO conducted a study on the portrayal of tobacco in Indian cinema and its impact on youth audience before implementation of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, (COTPA) in 2003. Further in 2004 (post COTPA ), a second study titled on “Tobacco In Movies and Impact on Youth” documented changes inBollywood’s tobacco imagery. This research found the following:
 The Government had enacted the COTPA with the objective to protect the present and future generation from the adverse effects of tobacco usage and second hand smoke, through imposing progressive restriction.
 As per 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.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has notified 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. The rules were notified after consultation and taking into account the views of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to make it more practical and implementable. 
As per the Rules, all the old movies and TV programmes i.e. produced before the 14th November, 2011 displaying tobacco products or its use would have to mandatorily display:-
a.       anti-tobacco health spots or messages of minimum thirty seconds duration each at the beginning and middle of the film or the television programme.
b.      anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent scroll at the bottom of the screen during the period of such display.
And such programmes will be telecasted at such timings that are likely to have least viewership of minors.
For new films and TV programmes a strong editorial justification for display of tobacco products or their use shall be given to Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) along with UA certification, and it will be accompanied by the following:
a.       A disclaimer, of minimum twenty 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;
b.      anti-tobacco health spots or messages, of minimum thirty-second duration each at the beginning and interval of the film or the television programme;
c.       anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent scroll at the bottom of the screen during the period of such display;
There will be a representative of MoHFW in the CBFC.
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 should be edited/blurred by the producer prior to screening. The ban is on display of tobacco product or its usage also.

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