Cigarettes have been predominant in many Bollywood songs, like the popular number picturised on Dev Anand, "Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya", but now Bollywood is making a conscious effort to avoid lighting up both on and off screen.
In the black and white era, most romantic heroes used to smoke on screen and it was a must for the villains. Throwing rings of smoke in the air used to turn KN Singh, Pran and Prem Chopra into believable baddies.
The trend continued till the government banned images of tobacco use from all Indian movies and television shows in 2005 because they promoted a product that kills.
The government order also stated that offending images in foreign movies and serials would be electronically blurred and health warnings would be flashed over any scene in which an actor, from a film predating the ban, is shown smoking.
"No person, whosoever it is, should smoke on screen. They are celebrities and influence public mind," KK Kapoor, member of the Discipline Committee of Delhi Medical Council, told IANS.
Initially, leading Bollywood producers, directors and actors protested the ban as they felt it amounts to the loss of artistic freedom.
Actor and former censor board chief Anupam Kher was quoted as having said, "Tomorrow they can turn around and say do not show guns in movies as it will encourage violence."
However, producer Kumar Mangat says Bollywood is not oblivious to the side effects of smoking and the film fraternity is making conscious efforts to avoid it. He himself helped many of his friend and colleagues get rid of the bad habit.
"One of my cameraman has stopped smoking at my behest. Ajay Devgan has cut down his smoking up to 25 per cent. People avoid lighting up in front of me," said Mangat.
Preaching is easier than doing but Mangat quit smoking when he was very young. In fact, he banned cigarettes on the sets of his film No Smoking in which John Abraham plays a chain smoker.
"When I started shooting for No Smoking, I decided that not a single member of the team would smoke on the sets. From the actor to spot boys, I warned everybody about my decision," said Mangat.
"I hired a cameraman to click those who used to sneak out to fag. And I used to fine them. You won't believe I have collected around Rs 162, 000 and am planning to donate it for a good cause," he added.
He felt that youngsters generally pick up this bad habit because they associate it with manhood and films do not have any role in promoting the habit.
"Ban on smoking in films is not going to help. If the government really wants to control smoking, it should stop the production of tobacco in the country."
But Kapoor said celebrities are not bothered about the welfare of the society.
"For their own commercial benefits these actors are not bothering about the society. Youngsters see them on television or theatre and pick up the bad habit. Any actor smoking in public is equal to a criminal," said Kapoor.
However, quite a few Bollywood actors, including Saif Ali Khan, Viveik Oberoi and John Abraham, have become official brand ambassadors for anti-smoking campaigns.
Saif, who was recently hospitalised due to some heart problem, quit smoking after being discharged.
Viveik hates smoking and gave a tough time to director Apoorva Lakhiya who wanted him to smoke for Shootout At Lokhandwala.
Slowly but surely, awareness about the ill effects of smoking is spreading.