Soon after the government accepted a proposal to do away with the anti-tobacco scroll in movies, activists are up in arms against the move.
Non-government organisations and public health experts have said the government’s stand on tobacco control in recent times seems to be favouring the pro-tobacco lobby.
Noted film producer Mukesh Bhatt, who is the president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, said leading filmmakers had submitted the proposal to do away with the warning scroll to the information and broadcasting ministry in a meeting held a fortnight ago.
The on-screen warning was first introduced in 2012, after the Union health ministry argued that films have a significant impact on viewers and glamourised tobacco use. This was vehemently opposed by the film industry that implemented the scroll after strong resistance.
The recent decision has, however, angered several anti-tobacco activists in the city.
“The interests of the film industry are in direct conflict with public health. They are vociferous in exercising their so-called freedom, but are ignorant about their duty towards the society,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital and an anti-tobacco activist.
“When a big Bollywood actor smokes on screen, the industry’s think tank believes that it doesn’t promote smoking. However, a pan masala company is happily paying him Rs20 crore for endorsing their brand in a TV advertisement. Why?” asked Dr Chaturvedi.
Some believe the move will be a major setback in their efforts to control tobacco usage.
“Indian movies and actors have very strong influence on the youths. Restricting exposure of children and adolescents to tobacco on films/television is the single most effective public health intervention any society or government can make,” said Devika Chadha, vice-president, Salaam Bombay Foundation, an NGO.