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Smoking in films is creative liberty: SRK

The Bollywood actor declines a request by Health Minister Ramadoss that he quit cigarettes, at least on screen.

entertainment Updated: Jan 28, 2008 21:48 IST

Bollywood actor and smoker Shah Rukh Khan has declined a request by India's health minister that he quit cigarettes, at least on screen.

Anbumani Ramadoss, the health minister, says the habits of celebrities such as Khan are an enormous influence on young people. But Khan, Hindi cinema's most bankable star, sees no grounds for censorship.

"I think there is a huge amount of creative freedom that should be allowed in cinema," he told a press conference broadcast on a private TV news channel on Monday. "It is make-believe ... We should not have huge censorship."

Khan recently played a glamorous Mumbai gangster in the film Don, which was advertised with a lingering shot of him exhaling slow-motion billows of cigarette smoke at the screen, cut with shots of him in sharp clothes and dancing with beautiful women.

But even if film heroines are not repelled by the habit, Ramadoss is.

"Please don't smoke in your movies, Mr Shah Rukh Khan," the health minister said in an interview with CNN-IBN broadcast on Sunday. "Children are being affected. Fourteen-year-olds are taking to tobacco."

More than half of Indian men and about one in 10 Indian women smoke or chew tobacco, according to the government figures.

Ramadoss has been pushing for restrictive laws to put people off the addictive habit, which can cause cancers and other diseases.

He proposed an outright ban on smoking onscreen in 2006 and that tobacco packets be emblazoned with grisly photographs of smoking-related diseases, but neither suggestion has yet made it into law.

However, Khan stressed that he was no advocate for smoking, even if his art requires him to light up occasionally.

"Every time I'm in front of a television channel I always say, 'children, don't smoke, it kills you.'" He told reporters. "It's the worst habit and I want to give it up as soon as possible."

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