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No more puffs for Big B in Bollywood

Amitabh has apologised to anti-tobacco lobby for appearing with a cigar on posters of his latest film 'Family'

india Updated: Jan 13, 2006 12:12 IST

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has apologised to India's anti-tobacco lobby for appearing with a cigar on posters of his latest film due for release on Friday and promised not to be seen promoting smoking in films.

"I am deeply apologetic of the advertisement that has hurt the sentiment of people at large and organisations such as yours," he wrote in a letter to the non-governmental National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE) that had threatened to sue him.

"I have informed my producers and told them to take immediate steps so that no such violations take place," Bachchan said.

Bachchan, convalescing at home after a major abdominal surgery last month, found himself in the midst of a raging controversy when posters of "Family" appeared showing him smoking a cigar.

Hit by a barrage of criticism from social organisations and the public, 63-year old Bachchan promised to ensure that he would not promote smoking in Bollywood promotions in future.

"I am happy with his response. I was expecting nothing less from a person like Mr Bachchan," said NOTE's Shekhar Salkar in a statement.

Two years ago, India banned smoking in public places and an anti-smoking law forbids any direct or indirect advertising of tobacco products and the sale of cigarettes to children.

The ban on showing Bollywood stars smoking in films was mooted on May 31, World Anti-Smoking Day, but it has missed two deadlines due to differences between India's health and information and broadcasting ministries.

According to the Health Ministry, India accounts for 800,000 to 900,000 smoking-related deaths annually.

Bachchan -- Bollywood's most popular actors -- has been seen smoking and drinking onscreen in scores of films over the decades.

But in private life, Bachchan quit smoking and drinking decades ago.

"I do not drink nor smoke. I have not indulged in these activities for 30 years and no intentions of doing so in the future," Bachchan said in his letter.

"Family" is his first release this year in which he plays an underworld don protecting his family from rival gangsters.

The star had a hugely successful 2005, with four major box-office hits grossing more than one billion rupees (22 million dollars) collectively.

First Published: Jan 13, 2006 11:43 IST