Activists put up ‘Wall of shame’ for tobacco violators ‘World No Tobacco Day’

India is second largest producer of tobacco worldwide and ranks fourth in total tobacco consumption.

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Published: May 31, 2013 3:58 pm

Despite a ban on advertising,promotion and sponsorships for tobacco,companies are still using sophisticated and covert means to push their products,according to anti-tobacco campaigners who recently put up a “wall of shame” – a photo exhibition that names violators.

Photos of Tobacco Advertising,Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) violations collated from 13 high tobacco use states in the country – Delhi,Uttar Pradesh,Bihar,Odisha,Karnataka,Tamil Nadu,Andhra Pradesh,Maharashtra,Assam,Gujarat,Madhya Pradesh,Rajasthan and West Bengal – are up for display by NGO HRIDAY here.

The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day,which falls today is the banning of TAPS.

A consultation recently conducted by the NGO in collaboration with pan-India partners under guidance of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) deliberated on development of national guidelines for a ban on TAPS and effective enforcement of Section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) – the Indian tobacco control law,which prohibits any form of direct or indirect TAPS.

The tobacco problem in developing countries like India is more complex and difficult compared to other parts of the world,say activists.

India is the second largest producer of tobacco worldwide and ranks fourth in total tobacco consumption.

“Tobacco and its use are not new to our culture. It is easily accessible and consumed in rural India in various forms – smoking,chewable and snuff – like cheaper cigarette

versions like beedis,betel leaves,flavored powder (pan masala and gutka),hookah etc. and is closely related with rituals and social status,” says Nikunj Sharma,communication officer,HRIDAY.

Families already grappling with scant resources are pushed further into extreme poverty due to spending on tobacco products or on treating tobacco-related diseases,he says. A 7-minute long film has also been developed by HRIDAY with support from MoHFW and WHO country office for India.

The film captures violations of TAPS across the country.

Some of the violations noted in film are “LCD TVs displayed at pan shops and pan shop owner saying that they are being paid ten thousand rupees a month from the company to put up these ads,” says Sharma.

Another pan shop owner in the film says that they are given a discount of Rs 150 to Rs 200 to display tobacco promotional material at his shops.

The film also captures reaction by people to what they think about surrogate advertisements of tobacco.

“If there is a ban on tobacco advertisements then surrogate ads should also be banned completely since they misguide people and youth end up buying the tobacco product” says one student in the film.

The film will be widely disseminated to states for them to get educated on what are surrogate ads of tobacco products and what action can be taken on the same.

Keshav Desiraju Secretary,Health,Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,who participated in the consultation says,”We soon plan to write to the states giving them an advisory on how to distinguish between genuine and surrogate advertisement of tobacco products and ensure that strict action is taken against the violators as per the provisions of the law.”

Meanwhile,for the “Wall of Shame” compilations were collected under 5 broad categories with the maximum number of violations (350) being found under the “Point of Sale and product display” category.

Print,Electronic and Outdoor Media,Brand Stretching,events,sponsorship,competitions and CSR as well as product placement and tobacco use in films are the other categories in which photos of violators have been taken for the exhibition.

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