India's federal Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss on Monday slammed the country's media for promoting unhealthy lifestyle, like smoking or eating junk food.
Ramadoss, speaking at the 26th annual convention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin in Las Vegas, said, "In the 1950s, the incident of smoking in movies was only about 30 percent. In 2004, it rose to 89 percent of Indian movies having smoking scenes."
Advertisement"In 1950s, only the villains were smoking. In 2004, 76 percent of the movies had heroes smoking. So, this was again a huge cause for our young children to take up smoking and I have been fighting against them --- movies and all sorts of activities -- but, as you know, the industry is very strong and I have to go through a lot of flak on this as well."
He lamented that India is "going through a very bad patch on tobacco. All these tobacco companies are setting shop in India, Indonesia and China. We lose over a million people every year to the tobacco curse."
Talking about his anti-tobacco crusade, he said, "In fact, before becoming a minister, I was involved with a NGO which worked against tobacco. I am so passionate that India should be free of tobacco, which is my goal, and we have enacted an act -- Tobacco Control Act -- and all that is happening."
Ramadoss said, "We are also bring in pictorial warnings -- cigarette packs will have gory pictures of cancer patients and all that and within six months, all tobacco products will have these warnings and we are also trying to increase the fines for tobacco usage."
"Alcohol is another problem we are facing," he said, and noted, "India has got demographically the youngest youth population in the world -- 600 million youth below the age of 30 -- and it is such a huge asset for us. So, we need to protect them to make India productive and make India a more developed country and that's precisely what we are trying to do -- trying to have policies against alcohol."
Ramadoss said another burgeoning problem in India was junk food, and asked, "How many of you know that a can of Pepsi has seven teaspoons of sugar? Not many. When you drink coffee, you say, I am happy with half-a-teaspoon of sugar, but then you don't think twice when you drink a can of Pepsi. We are drinking seven teaspoons of sugar and eating a packet of chips full of calories."
"So, we are trying to send a message to our young school-going children out there and we are trying to remove all this junk food of these Pepsis, or Cokes, or chips and pizzas from schools, from educational institutions."
He also Indian media tended to thrive on celebrity journalism, hailing wrong role models, instead of focusing on the real problems faced by the people