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Ads claiming to make you fair, prevent ageing may soon be punishable

The new draft of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, proposes a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and up to two years’ imprisonment in cases of a first time offence.

In the case of a subsequent conviction, imprisonment may extend to five years and the fine, up to Rs 50 lakh.

Companies advertising medicines and products purported to make a person fairer, improve their height and memory or cure issues like hair loss or greying and premature ageing, among several others, may soon attract more stringent fines and jail time.

The new draft of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, proposes a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and up to two years’ imprisonment in cases of a first time offence. In the case of a subsequent conviction, imprisonment may extend to five years and the fine, up to Rs 50 lakh.

The previous version of this Act, dated 1954, had kept penalties for a first time conviction at up to six months, with or without a fine, and imprisonment of up to one year for a second time conviction. The amendments also proposes to expand the definition of an advertisement to “any audio or visual publicity, representation, endorsement or pronouncement made by means of light, sound, smoke, gas, print, electronic media, internet or website and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice, banner, poster or such other documents.”

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The Act prohibits persons from taking “any part” in the publication of ads referring to any drug in terms which suggest or are “calculated to lead to” the use of that drug for uses like inducing miscarriages or preventing pregnancies, among others. The amended Act also prohibits advertisements that purport the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of “any” of the 78 diseases, disorders or conditions it has specified, including AIDS, bronchial asthma, certain types of cancers, change of the foetal sex and sexual impotence, premature ejaculation and spermatorrhoea. The previous Act listed 54 such diseases, disorders and conditions. The Health Ministry has sought suggestions, comments or objections to these amendments within 45 days.

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