The Indian Health Ministry seems to have cracked down on the display of unhealthy-food ads on trains. The ministry has issued a plea to the Railway Ministry asking to disallow advertisements of aerated drinks, high-fat food items, tobacco and cigarettes on trains.
CK Mishra, Secretary, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), in a letter to Ministry of Railways, has said that the assets of Indian Railways should not be used to advertise products that negatively impact health.
"Any move to further promote products that have negative health externalities will be counter-productive and will scuttle on-going efforts to reduce or regulate consumption of alcohol, tobacco, food containing high fats, sugar and salt (HFSS), sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) including aerated and non-aerated beverages," Mr. Mishra noted in the letter.
"To address the health and developmental burden of Non-communicable diseases in a sustainable manner, a coordinated multi-sectoral response is required with due attention to the underlying causes," he said.
Indian Railways has recently unveiled its Non-Fare Revenue (NFR) policy wherein railway properties like trains, level-crossings and areas along the tracks can be used for advertising to generate revenue. The ministry aims to earn close to Rs 2,000 crore by with the help of this policy.
The health secretary welcomed the NFR policy and called it a great medium to earn revenue for the government. However, he suggested that such an initiative can also be used by the industry to promote harmful products such as alcohol, tobacco, food containing high fats, sugar and salt, sugar sweetened beverages including aerated and non-aerated beverages, et cetera.
"Advertisements of such products will result in unfavourable health and economic consequences for individuals, families and for the nation at large," Mishra said.
According to the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health, India stands to lose USD 4.58 trillion between 2012-2030 due to NCDs, while Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) alone could account for USD 2.17 trillion economic loss.