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Tobacco Co's Marketing Addiction To India’s Youth

Bollywood and tobacco companies – marketing addiction to India’s youth

January 19, 2006

89 percent of the films released in India in 2004 and 2005 included generic or branded tobacco imagery, study shows. This is significantly up from the 76 percent of Indian films with tobacco as reported by the WHO study in 2003.

The study titled Tobacco in Movies and Impact on Youth was conducted by an Indian NGO Burning Brain Society and supported by the World Health Organisation.

Becky Freeman Director ASH New Zealand says, “Tobacco companies are clearly targeting countries like India for their untapped potential.

“With countries like New Zealand, Australia and Canada experiencing declining smoking rates and increasingly restrictive legislation, big tobacco is using any means possible to attract new customers. The increase of smoking in Bollywood films is a sign of their aggressive marketing tactics.”

The study says that 2200 people die every day in India because of tobacco addiction, and films contribute to over 5000 children taking to tobacco every day.

"Indian films are being turned into blatant cigarette commercials," says the study's lead investigator, Hemant Goswami, chairperson of the Burning Brain Society, "Along with anecdotal testimony one hears about product placements and payoffs, sheer numbers tell us that tobacco companies recently barred from advertising their products through other forms of mass media are rushing to use motion pictures instead."

Though cigarettes are consumed by about 15 to 20 percent of the tobacco users in India, in over 90 percent of the movies containing tobacco scenes, the leading man or woman in Indian films is shown consuming cigarettes. Almost all the brand placement and visibility is of two cash rich multinationals and an Indian tobacco company who are currently fighting for a larger market share in India.

The study reports that exposure to smoking in movies promotes tobacco as a normal behaviour and associates it with style and glamour which influences youngsters to smoke.

Health advocates have warned that with India's liberalized economy and having a population of 500 million under 18 it is an irresistible target for multinational tobacco companies.

This research also reaffirms New Zealand studies that have shown that children are more likely to smoke when they are exposed to pro-smoking images in the media.

ASH NZ urgently recommends that following strategies be implemented to prevent youth from being influenced to take up smoking through the movies:

1. Rate new smoking movies "R".
Any film that shows or implies tobacco should be rated "R." The only exceptions should be when the presentation of tobacco clearly and unambiguously reflects the dangers and consequences of tobacco use or is necessary to represent the smoking of a real historical figure.

2. Certify no pay-offs.
The producers should post a certificate in the closing credits declaring that nobody on the production received anything of value (cash money, free cigarettes or other gifts, free publicity, interest-free loans or anything else) from anyone in exchange for using or displaying tobacco.

3. Require strong anti-smoking ads.
Studios and theaters should require a genuinely strong anti-smoking ad (not one produced by a tobacco company) to run before any film with any tobacco presence, in any distribution channel, regardless of its rating.

4. Stop identifying tobacco brands.
There should be neither tobacco brand identification nor the presence of tobacco brand imagery (such as billboards) in the background of any movie scene.

To read the entire study, go to http://www.burningbrain.org/tobaccoinmovies/

-Ends-

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