Scenes depicting smoking on television or in advertisements may now result in penal punishment.
To make Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition) Act, 2003 more effective, the Union Government on Monday constituted a steering committee headed by Secretary Health Naresh Dayal to enforce section 5 of the Act. The committee has only one people's representative in Sachin Pilot, Member of Parliament representing Congress.
Others are Joint Secretaries from the Ministry of Health, Information and Broadcasting, Consumer Affairs, Director General Press Information Bureau and some social organisations.
Officials said the committee will decide on the cases referred to it and will also have powers to take suo-motto cognisance of any violation of section 5.
Earlier, the Health Ministry's decision to ban smoking in films had hit a roadblock with first the I&B ministry opposing the move and then film maker Mahesh Bhatt moving Delhi High Court against the move.
Thereafter, the government submitted a proposal in the high court stating that films showing smoking scenes should be certified as 'A'—only for adult viewing. The court has not decided on the issue so far.
With the constitution of the steering committee, the government has tried to make use of section 5 to check promotion of smoking. Different NGOs have claimed that smoking was increasing and death rate because of smoking was also going up.
Section 5, prohibits any sort of promotion of smoking that results in increase in cigarette sales in any form.
"The section is broad based and covers television content, advertisement in newspapers and roadside hoardings," said a Health Ministry official.
The punishment for violation of section 5 is enlisted in section 22 and 23. Section 22 says, violation of section 5 will result in imprisonment of upto two years and fine of Rs 1,000 or both. For second, offence the punishment prescribed is upto five years and fine of upto Rs 5,000. The section 23 allows the government to destroy the advertisements and content promoting smoking.