Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Indian Govt.'s Gift on World No Tobacco Day

India becomes the first country to ban on-screen smoking

Govt’s Doctor plays The Cigarette Censor

Ramadoss: India becomes first country to ban smoking/cigarettes on screen; says foreign movies need blurring


Posted online: Wednesday, June 01, 2005 at 0000 hours IST

NEW DELHI, MAY 31: The next time you see smoke on celluloid, it won’t be coming from a cigarette or a chillum — no dum maro songs anymore. In a bizarre order, the Union Health Ministry has issued directives banning all smoking scenes in films as well as on television. The government has also banned showing cigarette packs, hoardings or even using any item with a cigarette brand name on it in films.

With these stringent rules, India becomes the first country to ban smoking on screen. Films that have already been shot and include shots of people smoking, will need to a run a scroll at the bottom of the screen, warning of the hazards of smoking.

‘‘We are giving them two months but no such scenes will be allowed after that,’’ said Bhavani Thayagarajan, joint secretary, Ministry of Health, announcing the new measures.

The law also applies to foreign films or old films being re-released or shown on television. Distributors and television channels will be required to blur the screen each time an actor lights up or a cigarette brand makes a guest appearance. The horizontal warning scroll also becomes mandatory.

Ministry officials said they took these steps after a recent WHO study ‘‘held Bollywood responsible for glamourising smoking’’. ‘‘Film actors have a lasting impact on the minds of children and young adults,’’ pointed out Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, Union health minister. ‘‘There are reports that more women and children are smoking these days,’’ he added.

To be effective from August 1, 2005, the order has been notified on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day today. It is part of a Health Ministry initiative to give more teeth to anti-smoking laws. For instance, smoking is officially banned in public places in the capital, but that doesn’t stop hard smokers puffing away with impunity.

Today’s order also cracks down on ‘‘surrogate advertising’’ — defined as all kind of indirect references to a tobacco brand name. ‘‘Nobody can constitute awards in the name of cigrette brands, even the cigrette brands appearing on Formula 1 cars will have to be removed,’’ said Thyagaragan.

How sportscasters showing F-1 races will tackle this is unclear. The status of promotional events such as the Red and White Bravery Awards also comes under a cloud. A high-level screening committee has been set up to look into established brand extensions — such as Wills clothing.

Following violations in terms of cigarette advertising at the point of sale, the government has banned illumination of advertising boards as well as reduced the size of the boards. ‘‘The shopkeepers can just name the particular brands. No pictoral depiction will be allowed,’’ announced the ministry.

In order to make cigarettes inaccessible to minors, the government has even prohibited the sale of cigarettes through vending machines. ‘‘In a few months,’’ said Dr Ramadoss, ‘‘there will be pictorial warning regarding the harmful effects on the cigarette packs.’’

Here are a few more stats:

India signatory to WHO’s Framework Convention on
Tobacco Control, ratified on Feb 27,’05

Srinath Reddy, WHO consultant on anti-smoking:
• India is first country to ban smoking on cinema screen
• Takes lead in banning sale of cigarettes to minors
• South Africa, Thailand are the only other developing countries with anti-smoking laws
• US opposed to a ban on smoking in films on the grounds of freedom of expression
• Japan wants to retains cigarette sale through vending machines

Earnest Request to all smokers - Quit Tobacco for a Healthier World


Blogger vamsee said...

I can't comprehend the motive behind banning smoking on the screen. Sure, it has a lasting effect. I remember the days I had this great urgency to grow up and smoke a cigarillo just like Clint Eastwood (I still do :-)). Don't you think that a blurred sequence on the screen is bound to get kids more excited? It's a healthy move by the Govt. - no doubt. But I think the first step should be to regulate the sale of cigarettes/tobacco to minors and see to it that it's implemented with all seriousness.

Thursday, June 02, 2005 12:14:00 AM  
Blogger agastyabhrata said...

I am actually in an ambivalent state regarding this Tobacco Act.

The blurring of the sequence may not be a good option. And I completely concur with your argument.

I am fine with banning of on-screen smoking only when smoking is glorified in the screen. Let's say - Rajnikanth trying to do a trick on the cigarette and it lands in his mouth and he smokes in a fashionable manner. These are scenes which influence the people of impressionable age. And therefore I feel that those scenes must be removed from the film.

And I feel that smoking in a Devdas movie where the hero despite his death - he keeps smoking - these are things that can be shown. More or less, what I mean by this is - there should be sensible censoring.
Going by the current rule, you cannot have a screening of a scene where somebody smokes a hukka too. But while making a historic film - that becomes an element as smoking was a part of that.

While the above is one consideration, when you have to take a decision - you cannot please all sections. So, in that sense, I do not think that at the cost of the loss of smoking scenes, one cannot start generalizing it as a threat to the freedom of expression. I do not mind someone curbing that kind of freedom of expression which "can" influence impressionable age groups.

Now, as I said, ultimately - there is this requirement of "sensible" nature that is required to balance the arguments of claim for censorship versus the requirement of the freedom of expression to educate the people of the requirement of certain scenes of smoking - as cinema is supposedly another form of depicting life.

All that I understand is rather than thinking and re-thinking - taking some decision and going ahead with it is good. The things shall get evened out as the time progresses. So that way, I am trying to comprehend the sensibility in that decision.

Ultimately, doing something is better than doing nothing.

I agree that regulating of the sale of cigarettes/tobacco to minors in all seriousness is necessary. But unfortunately the scale of monitoring that is required for the same is too high, and I do not know if that can be implemented practically. Any suggestions for the same?

Thursday, June 02, 2005 7:54:00 PM  
Blogger Sagar Rastogi said...

Seriously guys, what good do you think will any of this do?

What next? A ban on showing guns because they glorify violence? A ban on showing people doing anything wrong? What are they going to make movies about? I think it's all just silly.

Friday, June 03, 2005 2:18:00 AM  
Blogger vamsee said...

What next? A ban on showing guns because they glorify violence? A ban on showing people doing anything wrong? What are they going to make movies about? I think it's all just silly.

This qualifies as the naivest statement. Who says a movie has to show something bad? May be to show something else as good. Guns don't yet glorify violence in Indian community as they are not as widely available as cigarettes. The day when kids take out their Colts, that's when we have to ban guns on screen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 2:42:00 AM  
Blogger agastyabhrata said...

Pragmatic Solutions to Implementation: [15/06/2005]

The government's earlier ban on smoking was to apply to older films as well.

'Ban to be fully enforced'

However, films that show an historical era or a historical personality smoking, will be exempt from the ban.

"In regard to new films, there should be a ban subject to some rare situations such as treatment of a historical personality, treatment of a historical period and social messaging against smoking itself. Otherwise the ban will be fully enforced," said Jaipal Reddy, I&B Minister.

But smoking will be banned in all new television serials.

Older films and television serials, which depict smoking scenes, will have to run a scroll conveying a statutory warning on the harmful effects of smoking.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger agastyabhrata said...

Having seen Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss and his postures post-Dr. Venugopal's ouster as Director of AIIMS, it is educative to note the following from an editorial in Pioneer:

It all began with his father, PMK supremo S Ramadoss's bete-noire, popular film icon Rajnikanth's use of the cigarette as an image statement. The celebrated actor routinely appeared on screen with a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips although in recent years he has given it up as his principal prop. To vilify Rajnikanth, Baby Doc decreed that even old films would have to run anti-smoking scrolls each time an actor was shown cigarette in hand. When the film industry raised an outcry, Baby Doc promptly dropped the Tughlaqian pursuit and focussed instead on bulldozing the Government to accept his demand to print blood-curdling pictures on cigarette packets ostensibly to deter smokers.

Sunday, March 23, 2008 8:59:00 AM  

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