The latest report released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) finds television shows and films lacking in implementation of “film rules” under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) that makes it mandatory to display static messages and anti-tobacco health spots of 30 seconds for programmes airing use of tobacco products. Of 308 movies that were screened, there were 149 scenes where tobacco usage was shown. Of 45 TV channels studied, 22 per cent TV shows depicted tobacco use, the findings of the report indicated.
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The “film rules”, implemented from October 2012, under the COTPA make it mandatory for scenes where tobacco or cigarette is shown to display a health warning to viewers. It also demands an “editorial justification” to show tobacco in a scene. Additionally, the film or TV programme should show a 30-second anti-tobacco health spot at the beginning and middle of the programme.
The study, conducted by World Health Organisation (WHO) and Vital Strategies, found that only 27 per cent films implemented all rules of this act. Of 3,080 people interviewed after these films, most agreed that such warnings help in raising awareness against tobacco.
The study focused on regional and national channels and viewed content stretching over 413 hours. The awareness among TV channels was found to be lower than films which go through censor board for certification. “Cigarettes are most often shown in scenes. We found that only 4 per cent TV shows implemented two out of three major film rules,” said Dr Nandita Murukutla, country director of Vital Strategies. Even if static warnings were displayed in scenes, they were hardly visible, the report noted.
Tobacco depiction was also higher in films in South India. Of the 149 scenes that showed tobacco or cigarettes, 32 per cent were found in South Indian films followed by 28 per cent in Bollywood, 21 per cent in films made in Eastern India and 20 per cent in North India.
The film rules legislation was introduced in 2012 after social activists red-flagged rising oral cancer cases due to high tobacco consumption in India. Cancer is one of the 10 leading causes of deaths in India, ahead of malaria and tuberculosis.While secretary for MoHFW, C K Mishra, on Friday stressed on increased cooperation of film and TV industry claiming it influences masses the most, several film industry members lashed out at the government for harsh regulations that curb their “creative freedom”, in the meeting.
“The government should first ban tobacco in the country. We must not be accused for using our creative freedom. The film and television bashing must end,” said filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, who was present at the launch of the report.
According to producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, films only depict what is happening on ground. “There is no attempt to glamourise it,” he said. According to Pahlaj Nihalani, chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification, cinema halls must also be asked to show anti-tobacco films after the national anthem.