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Stars to not endorse tobacco, junk foods & alcohol

Published: Tue 1 Apr 2008 02:08 PM
Film Stars to not endorse tobacco, junk foods and alcohol on-screen
by Bobby Ramakant
Portrayal of tobacco use in Indian cinema has been on the rise. Despite of The cigarette and other tobacco products Act (2003), repeated requests and appeals by health activists and India's Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss to film stars to desist from smoking on screen and also from brand placement, the incidence of tobacco use in films is only rising.
Dr Ramadoss again appealed to the film-stars to be socially responsible and not smoke on-screen in the larger interest of the youth of the nation. He made a "passionate request" to film stars and other celebrities to stop endorsing cigarettes and other tobacco products on-screen.
"Eighty percent of movies have smoking scenes and studies show that majority of the youngsters take up smoking under the influence of celebrities," said Dr Ramadoss.
Just last week, the legal proceeding against Amitabh Bachchan, was quashed by a session's court in Goa. Indian film superstar Amitabh Bachchan had smoked a cigar in FAMILY film and the posters of which were splashed all across India. NOTE India, a Goa based NGO and Indian Society Against Smoking, a Lucknow based voluntary group had issued legal notices to Amitabh Bachchan then, and NOTE India had taken Amitabh to court. But court quashed the legal proceedings against the Bollywood film icon Amitabh.
Filmstars should also desist from endorsing junk food and alcohol, added Dr Ramadoss.
He agreed that although India had one of the best tobacco control laws but the problem lies with the implementation. The implementation agencies in India are themselves deep rooted in tobacco addiction. For example the level of tobacco consumption in healthcare workers is alarmingly high in India, and so is for police and judiciary. Moreover the facilities for tobacco cessation are too few, and the success-rate of tobacco quitting at these expert centres is not very encouraging broadly speaking. World Health Organization (WHO) has been supporting a nation-wide network of tobacco cessation clinics (TCC) but the number of such TCC is very limited considering the number of people who use tobacco and may eventually need tobacco cessation services.
"We will try and bring in school teachers, NCC cadets and various NGOs as legal enforcers," Ramadoss said. "We are planning to introduce tobacco control at the school level also", he added.
Apart from this, the ministry would launch a host of commercial spots and advertisements in print as well as the electronic media, he said.
But is this enough? Is it going to be effective in controlling tobacco use in India? Will it desist youth to take up the deadly addiction? Most importantly, is it going to hold tobacco corporations accountable and put a check on misleading, surreptitious and deceitful tobacco promotions they unabashedly indulge in?
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Bobby Ramakant
(The author is a senior journalist and a member of Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT). He can be contacted at: bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

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