October 21, 2021 12:17:41 pm
In an open letter to Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, several cancer care organisations have applauded his decision to terminate the contract with a paan masala brand and return the entire money received through its promotions.
Last week, Amitabh Bachchan terminated his contract with a pan masala brand, saying that he was not aware that the promotion falls under ‘surrogate advertising’. The decision came after a national anti-tobacco organisation requested him to withdraw from the ad campaign, claiming that it would prevent youngsters from getting addicted to tobacco.
“This shows your concern for protecting children and young people, the intended targets of such surrogate advertising. Over the years, the tobacco control advocates have been steadily gaining ground in its fight against cigarettes, bidi, pan masala, gutka, and other addictive tobacco products. However, that progress is under continuous threat from underhanded marketing tactics such as surrogate advertising of seemingly innocuous ‘mouth fresheners’ from brands widely seen selling Paan Masala in India and overseas,” the letter from organisations like the Indian Cancer Society, Salaam Bombay and others has said.
Tobacco use is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cancer, lung disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is one of the major causes of death and diseases in India accounting for nearly 1.35 million deaths every year. It leads not only to the loss of precious lives but also carries a heavy social and economic cost. The total economic burden attributed to tobacco use from all diseases in India, just in 2017-18 for those aged 35 years and above, amounted to Rs 1,77,341 crore (USD 27.5 billion).
“We understand that you (Amitabh Bachchan) were unaware that the intended promotion fell under surrogate advertising and further appreciate your proactive approach to educating yourself along with the many millions who look up to you as a definitive role model. Celebrity-led endorsements are often designed with a premium appeal, but the intent is to capture the attention of the masses. The specific use of television advertising has the undeniable benefit of reaching people outside the audience set for whom the advertisement was purchased, such as impressionable adolescents.
“We take upon this opportunity to appreciate your prompt corrective action in the interest of public health which has set an example for other public figures to follow,” the letter that includes signatories Tshering D Bhutia, vice-president, Salaam Bombay Foundation, Col Ajai Tomar, CEO at Indian Cancer Society, Dr Shekhar Salkar from National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication-India, Dr Ashok Dhoble, secretary-general, Indian Dental Association, Dr Prakash Gupta, director of Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, and others, said.
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