Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of premature death and disease, currently leading to over five million deaths annually worldwide. These are expected to rise to over eight million annual deaths globally by 2030. Tobacco use is the leading cause of non-communicable diseases and is a major contributing factor to tuberculosis mortality. India is home to the second largest number of tobacco consumers in the world and it is estimated that in India one million deaths can be attributed to tobacco use.
Studies have shown that tobacco use is normalized and perpetuated by its positive portrayals in films and television content. Research in India has found that media advertising is associated with higher smoking rates and exposure to cigarette brand names or to visuals of actors smoking on television is related to increased smoking among youth in India. Fortunately, policies that ban the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco, and the placement of anti-tobacco mass media messages that portray the truth about the deadly health harms of tobacco, have been found to be effective in countering pro-tobacco imagery and reducing tobacco consumption.
India is home to one of the largest film and television industries in the world. Their size and popularity has the power to influence the behaviour and attitudes of millions of people. It is therefore vital that the industry joins hands to protect the health and well-being of those that it influences.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should put in place a mechanism to monitor television programmes that display tobacco products or their use and ensure compliance. Monitoring and enforcement of the Film Rule (by the Government) must be strengthened. The appropriate administrative channels for the smooth and streamlined implementation of all the key elements under the Film Rules must be identified, and only then can we be tobacco-free.
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The CSR Journal Team