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Delhi govt sends show cause to ‘Bond’ Brosnan for peddling pan masala

‘James Bond’ Pierce Brosnan had featured in a pan masala advertisement a year ago. The actor had then said that he did not know the product contained tobacco and thought it was mouth freshner. Bollywood actors such as Ajay Devgn and Shah Rukh Khan had also been sent similar notices.

delhi Updated: Feb 16, 2018 21:59 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times
James Bond,Pierce Brosnan,Pan masala
’James Bond’ actor Pierce Brosnan had featured in a pan masala advertisement campaign an year ago. The Delhi government has sent him a show cause notice this week. (HT Photo)

More than a year after Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan peddled pan masala in an advertisement, the Delhi government has sent him a show cause notice this week for endorsing a tobacco product through surrogate advertising.

“When the advertising campaign began a year ago, the actor said that he did not know the product contained tobacco and thought that it was a mouth freshener. The advertisement was removed for a while, but it is back now. The actor, who can influence millions, must explain why he is endorsing such a product,” said Dr SK Arora, head of Delhi’s tobacco control cell.

Promoting or advertising tobacco products is banned under section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). Tobacco manufacturers evade the ban by manufacturing products such as mouth fresheners, chewing gum and clothes with the same brand name.

“The tobacco companies have now started manufacturing their chewing tobacco and pan masala with separate brand names, making it impossible to nail them for it,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, a professor of head and neck cancer at Tata Memorial hospital in Mumbai. He has written to the Advertising Standards Council of India regarding the issue.

This is the first time that a notice is being sent to a Hollywood actor. Their Bollywood counterparts have been in the firing line for endorsing tobacco, which kills one million Indians every year.

Ajay Devgn, Shah Rukh Khan and Sunny Leone have been sent similar notices from Delhi’s tobacco control cell. Karan Johar’s Dharma productions received two notices from the cell last year – one for the movie Ittefaq, whose poster showed Akshaye Khanna about to light a cigarette, and the other for the show, India’s Next Superstar, which was sponsored by a pan masala brand.

“Longitudinal studies –both from India and abroad – show adolescents who reported higher exposure to tobacco advertisements were about two times likely to take up smoking or chewing tobacco. And, the link is causal, meaning one causes the other,” said Monika Arora, head of the health promotion, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). This is especially true for India where the youth idealise the ollywood icons, she said.

Over the past year, the department issued 25 such notices against actors and tobacco companies, as well as media houses and organisers of concerts sponsored by tobacco companies.

“In most cases, the actors or the event managers agree to remove the advertisements, but in some instances, we have had to approach the court. I am not at liberty to disclose the cases as they are sub-judice,” said Dr Arora.

A person or a company is guilty of promoting tobacco use can be fined R 1,000 and/ or imprisoned for up to two years for violating section 5 of COTPA and advertising tobacco products. Repeat offence gets them a fine of R 5,000, along with imprisonment for up to five years.

Delhi is the only state that has issued such notices. “Any state can take action against the offenders because most advertising campaigns happen nationally, but no one has done so to date. This is the reason the entertainment industry launches such campaigns with impunity,” said Dr Arora.

Direct advertising is usually done on hoardings or as point-of-sale display, and do not appear on newspapers or television. “The most common source of direct advertising is the cigarette kiosks that usually have branded displays. Delhi has become the only state in the country where there is a near 100% compliance of kiosks not displaying any brands,” said Dr Arora.

There are nearly 40,000 cigarette vends in Delhi.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 21:59 IST