To evaluate the implementation of Film Rule, under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), a study was done by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
Titled ‘Evaluation of Tobacco Free Film and Television Policy in India’, it was conducted by Vital Strategies with support from WHO Country Office for India, under the guidance of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The findings were discussed at a press conference held in Mumbai on February 10, which was attended by doctors, government officials and eminent personalities from film fraternity. Among the attendees were CK Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India, Dr Nandita Murukutla, Country Director, Vital Strategies, Siddharth Roy Kapur, among others.
According to the study, there is an urgent need for better implementation and enforcement of the rule across all media mediums. When properly implemented, it will be effective in countering image of tobacco with warnings about tobacco’s harms or even prompting decisions to quit.
“Tobacco use is detrimental in all aspects of life and it grips users in their productive years. We must reverse this tide. An effective way of tobacco control would be to ingrain and indoctrinate young minds, children and youth. If they could be weaned away from tobacco use, we believe that half the battle is won, since children and youth of today will be policy and lawmakers of tomorrow,” said CK Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Mishra also informed that people often complain disclaimers of ‘tobacco warning’ are scary.
“I believe if disclaimers and advertises are not scary, then it will not be effective in creating impact on people’s mind,” said Mishra.
The size and popularity of India’s film and TV industry has the power to influence behaviour and attitudes of millions of people. During the study period, 22 per cent of TV programmes were found to show use of tobacco.
“71 per cent of these programmes were broadcast when children and adolescents are likely to watch them. Implementation of Film Rule on TV was found to be very low. Only 4 per cent of these programmes implemented at least two of three elements of rules and none carried government’s two approved anti-tobacco spots,” said Dr Nandita Murukutla, Country Director of Vital Strategies.
Static health messages were most likely to be shown, but these were also not implemented fully as per rules, added Murukutla.
While 99 per cent of films with tobacco scenes implemented at least one of the three elements of Film Rule, only 27 per cent implemented all three elements fully in approved manner. Despite inconsistent implementation of the rule, exit interviews with audiences indicated positive results.
Around half of those who recalled any tobacco warning message agreed it was easy to understand and made them think. Around 30 per cent said the messages had made them more likely to quit any form of tobacco.
According to Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO representative to India, “The film fraternity has played an extremely positive and vital role in implementing tobacco-free film and television policy. India has pioneered this policy and it would not have been possible without film and television industry’s support. Our actors are role models who can impact youth’s behaviour. I would request them to join this movement against tobacco and help save precious lives.”
Bekedam also informed that if women are passive smokers, then they have 70 per cent chances of developing breast cancer.
A 29-year-old software engineer suffered from throat cancer and before his demise, he had written a note to Dr Vishal Rao, Oncologist, saying he regrets quitting tobacco due to financial issues, but even after quitting, he is dying.
“I was shocked to see him. So, under the guidance of Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, we decided to spread awareness. Our motto will be achieved when number of cases in cancer hospitals decline,” said Rao.