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Editorial

India becomes a global leader by regulating anti-tobacco warnings on OTT Platforms

May 31, 2023 11:51 AM

New Delhi : India has become a global leader in spreading awareness around the deadly effects of tobacco consumption after regulating anti-tobacco warnings on OTT Platforms.

The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday notified new rules for anti-tobacco warnings on OTT platforms that if the publisher of online content fails to comply with new rules then the ministry will take strict action.

This notification mandates OTT platforms to carry anti-tobacco warning messages as we watch in theatres and TV programmes and comes on the occasion of 'World No Tobacco Day' observed on May 31st.
According to the Ministry notification, "If the publisher of online curated content fails to comply with the provisions of sub-rules an interministerial committee consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, shall take action suo motu or on a complaint, and after identifying the publisher of online curated content, issue notice giving reasonable opportunity to explain such failure and make appropriate modification in the content."
Tobacco addiction has been recognised as the single largest cause of preventable death and disability worldwide. Every year millions of people die due to tobacco use.

Binoy Mathew programme manager at the Voluntary Health Association of India said, "This a great and pioneering step by India and will truly make them world champions in regulating tobacco promotion through entertainment medium."
India accounts for nearly 1.35 million deaths every year and it is also the second-largest consumer and producer of tobacco. Nearly 80 lakh people die every year globally, of whom 13.5 lakhs are Indians.
"The morbidity and mortality due to tobacco use are well established. The Government enacted a beneficial legislation COTPA to discourage tobacco use, by eliminating all direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco," Mathew said.

This year the theme for World No Tobacco Day is "We need food, not tobacco". The 2023 global campaign aims to raise awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops.
It will also aim to expose the tobacco industry's efforts to interfere with attempts to substitute tobacco growing with sustainable crops, thereby contributing to the global food crisis.

"The tobacco industry's aim is to get children hooked on tobacco, catch them young is their motto, and advertisement was one such. The ban on tobacco advertisements under COTPA led to a spurt of incidents of promotion of tobacco through entertainment mediums. There was a huge increase in scenes depicting tobacco use, which also led to product placement (display of clear images of tobacco brands)," added Mathew.
The new guidelines on Cigarettes and other Tobacco products will come into force within three months of their publication in the Official Gazette, the notifications added.
Now, every publisher of online curated content will be displaying tobacco products and their use and shall display anti-tobacco health spots of a minimum of thirty seconds duration each at the beginning and middle of the programme.

"Every publisher of online curated content displaying tobacco products or their use shall: (a) display anti-tobacco health spots, of a minimum of thirty seconds duration each at the beginning and middle of the programme; (b) display anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent static message at the bottom of the screen during the period of display of the tobacco products or their use in the programme; (c) display an audio-visual disclaimer on the ill-effects of tobacco use, of minimum twenty seconds duration each, in the beginning, and middle of the programme; (2) The health spots, message and disclaimer shall be made available to the publisher of the online curated content on the website," the notification read.
"The anti-tobacco health warning message, health spot and audio-visual disclaimer shall be in the same language as used in the online curated content. The display of tobacco products or their use in online curated content shall not extend to - (a) display of the brands of cigarettes or other tobacco products or any form of tobacco product placement; (b) display of tobacco products or their use in promotional materials," it said further.
In 2012, after years of litigating the film industry, the government enforced a law regulating the depiction of tobacco products and their use in films and Television.
"The popularity of streaming platforms, especially during COVID and amongst teens, was a serious concern. There was a frequent depiction of scenes where teens in school uniform were shown smoking, and there were also scenes, where tobacco control laws and their intent, was ridiculed," said Binoy
However, the Government with the new notification has put an end to brazen incidents of tobacco promotion through OTT platforms.
"The new law mandates whenever tobacco products or their use is displayed in OTT programmes display anti-tobacco disclaimers, health warning messages and health spots. The rules also ban tobacco products' placement and depiction of tobacco or its use in promotional material. This is indeed a great step by this Government in the interest of public health interest. it is also the constitutional mandate that tender age of children age is protected from the menace of tobacco and right to health is fundamental to the living of all persons." he further added.

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