“It is the responsibility of all cinema hall-owners to exhibit anti-tobacco warnings along with the nation anthem,” says Pahlaj Nihalani
A report by the ministry of health and family welfare titled ‘Evaluation of Tobacco Free Film and Television Policy in India’ has revealed a number of lapses in implementation of the rules in both film theatres and television programmes.
The Film Rule came into effect on October 2, 2012 after the amendments to the comprehensive Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), and are applicable to all Indian and foreign films and TV programmes broadcast in India.
The study found that there was incorrect and incomplete presentation of the government-approved warnings – both the anti-tobacco health spots and audio-visual disclaimer on ill effects of tobacco, especially on television. However, despite the inconsistent implementation, the report claimed that the warnings have yielded a positive impact on the audience. While audience’s reaction to the anti-tobacco warnings was mostly favourable, many even expressed an intention to quit smoking, according to the report.
The report has been compiled by Vital Strategies with support from World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Office for India, under the guidance of ministry of health and family welfare. It has listed a number of recommendations like proper identification of scenes glamourising the use of tobacco and better implementation of Film Rule, revival of the government website hosting anti-tobacco health spots and disclaimers, rotation of health spots to avoid over-exposure and distribution of regular advisories to the television and film producers.
At the national consultation on implementation of the Film Rule – organised in partnership with Salaam Bombay Foundation, discussions were held to strengthen the existing framework with active participation from the film and television industry.
CK Mishra, secretary, ministry of health and family welfare, said that the tobacco consumption creates a huge burden of morbidity on the country. “Health cannot be only discussed as ‘health for all’ but ‘health by all’ as well,” he said.
Mishra called for a national debate on government’s expenditure on healthcare or hospital care.
He said, “Health can never be government business. India spends close to 50 to 80 percent out of pocket expenditure on health and there is a catastrophic spend on cancer.”
He added, “The film industry has expressed to make an anti-tobacco awareness film for us and we will happily accept it as long as it is not contravening what we are trying to say. We have been having this conversation for close to two years. The sooner it happens the better it is.”
Pahlaj Nihalani, chairperson, Central Board of Film Certification, said that it is the responsibility of all cinema hall-owners to exhibit anti-tobacco warnings along with the nation anthem.
“Health ministry must bring in a notification to this effect. As a film producer, citizen of the country and CBFC chairman, I can say that if cinema-owners show anti-tobacco films, it will create an impact. I will appeal to the government that just as the government has banned liquor, it is its duty to ban tobacco,” he added.
However, Siddharth Roy Kapur, film producer and president, Film and Television Producers Guild of India, said that the film industry is a soft target. “Art is a reflection of what is happening in society. We do not want the creative freedom to be diluted because we are only reflecting what is happening in society.”
Kapur added that that he could get some directors from the film industry to actually create anti- smoking or anti-tobacco capsules featuring the icons and talking about the ill-effects of smoking, which can be screened by the cinema hall-owners.
Emphasising on the need for implementation of the Film Rule, Dr Nandita Murukutla, country director, Vital Strategies, said, “Several studies in the past have shown that these warnings do leave an impact. Therefore, we need a thorough implementation of these rules under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). We do believe that the film industry is the only way the tobacco industry finds avenues for branding and advertising.”
She added, “The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars to mislead consumers by depicting tobacco use as glamorous or popular. When tobacco usage is depicted in films and TV programmes it does the tobacco industry’s work for them. Tobacco kills one million Indians every year and costs our economy 22.4 billion dollars. Our objective of this study is to understand the importance of Film Rule and the current gap in their implementation. We urge the TV and film industry to recognize its responsibilities and work towards a tobacco free culture.”
On the other hand, Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO representative to India, thanked the TV and film industry for its support to the anti-tobacco campaign. He also appealed to them to carry the movement ahead. He said, “The film fraternity has played an extremely positive and vital role in implementing the tobacco-free film and television policy. India has pioneered this policy and it would not have been possible without the support of the film and television industry. Our actors are role models, who can impact behaviour – especially of the youth. I would request them to join this movement against tobacco and help save precious lives”.
The survey was conducted in film theatres across regions, using multistage sampling .Trained researchers observed each movie systematically and completed a coding questionnaire to note implementation of the Film Rule. Exit interviews were conducted with 3080 people and 308 movies were coded. For television channels, out of the 446 channels in India, a subset of 45 were sampled based on their ownership (international, national, regional), type of programming and media reach. A total of 413 hours and 27 minutes were observed and coded for the survey.