Tobacco kills one million Indians every year and costs our economy $22.4 billion. 22% of the Indian television programs have been found depicting tobacco and broadcasting them despite 71% viewers being children and adolescents, a report revealed.
The report titled 'Evaluation of Tobacco Free Film and Television Policy in India' conducted by Vital Strategies and supported by World Health Organization (WHO) noted that the implementation of the rule under the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act was very low.
‘The implementation of the 'film rule' - that mandates that warning messages are broadcast when tobacco products are shown in films and television programs - is very low.’
The report added that anti-tobacco messages are effective in countering the imagery of tobacco and prompting decision to quit. It also called for better implementation of the act.
The film rule was legislated on October 2, 2012, and mandates that three forms of warning messages (anti-tobacco health spots, audio-visual disclaimers and static health warning messages) are broadcast when tobacco products, branding or use are shown in films and television programs.
The study was conducted under the guidance of the Union Health Ministry.
"An effective way of tobacco control would be to ingrain and indoctrinate the young minds, the children and the youths. If they could be weaned away from tobacco use, we believe that the battle is half won," said Health Secretary C.K Mishra.
Present on the occasion, Nandita Murukutia, Country Director Vital Strategies, said: "The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars to mislead consumers by depicting tobacco use as glamorous or popular."
According to Murukutia, when tobacco is depicted in films and TV Programs, it's doing the tobacco industry's work for them. "The objective of this study is to understand the importance of 'film rule' and the current gap in implementation," said Murukutia.
Murukutia urged the TV and film industry to recognize its responsibilities and work towards a tobacco-free culture.