New Delhi, Films showing actors blowing glorious rings of smoke or village elders smoking a hookah may soon be out of reach for those below 18 years.
An autonomous body helping the Indian government in its fight against tobacco consumption has suggested that films showing smoking scenes should be awarded an 'A' (adult) certificate.
Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), an autonomous public-private body, was formed with active involvement of the government to create awareness against tobacco consumption and help in devising strategies to tackle the issue.
"We have suggested awarding 'A' certificates to all movies showing smoking scenes. It's a unanimous decision and the health ministry has also shown its keenness about it," said PHFI president K. Srinath Reddy.
"A committee will judge the requirement of the scene vis-ā-vis the story and ask the character who is a part of the smoking scene to speak against tobacco consumption at the beginning of the movie, during interval time and at the end of the movie," Reddy told IANS.
Reddy, who was a former head of the cardiology department of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said movies with smoking scenes are affecting young minds. "The new suggestion, once implemented, would be an effective tool to curb public promotion of a wrong thing."
PHFI has an empowered, independent governing board consisting of representatives from the government, philanthropists and leading Indian and international professionals.
Its members include health secretary Naresh Dayal, planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) chief N.K. Ganguly, Nobel laureates Amartya Sen, Ashok Alexander, director Avahan - the India AIDS Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In India alone, there are over 800,000 tobacco-related deaths every year and it is posing a huge challenge to the country's public health expenditure and productive working hours.
According to government estimates, India is home to 200 million tobacco users. To dissuade people from smoking, pictures of corpse, cancerous mouth and the caption "your smoking kills babies" would be displayed on packets of tobacco products from June onwards.
There are currently 1.3 billion addicted smokers across the globe of which five million die every year.
Elaborating on their suggestions Reddy, who has been awarded by World Health Organisation (WHO) for his anti-tobacco consumption work said: "During the smoking scene, a one minute anti-smoking scroll will also run to negate the message among the audience."
Reddy said a blanket ban on smoking scenes in movies faced a roadblock after producer-director Mahesh Bhatt moved the Delhi High Court challenging the government's proposal two years back.
In an interview to IANS in November 2006 at Agra, Robert Beaglehole, director of the chronic diseases and health promotion, WHO, had termed endorsement of tobacco products by actor Shah Rukh Khan and motor racing legend Michael Schumacher as "horrible".
Urging them to stop promoting what was a "social malice", Beaglehole had said: "We know that celebrities in both Hollywood and Bollywood are endorsing tobacco in a huge way and we denounce it vehemently. It's really horrible to see public faces not showing enough responsibility."