National Consultation on Tobacco Free Films Policy

WHO Country Office for India, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), Vital Strategies and the Salaam Bombay Foundation, organized a National Consultation on Tobacco Free Films Policy to release and discuss the highlights of a recent study, ‘Evaluation of the Tobacco Free Film and Television Policy’ at Mumbai on 10 February 2017.

The study, undertaken by Vital Strategies with support from WHO and MoHFW, was aimed at assessing the implementation of the ‘Tobacco Free Films Policy’, facilitating a dialogue with all stakeholders for better implementation of the film rules under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), and to reiterate the public health benefits of the tobacco free film policy.

The consultation reviewed and deliberated on strengthening the tobacco-free film and television policy, in light of the findings of the evaluation study. Better implementation of the film rules under the COTPA mandate was the key discussion point.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr C.K. Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India said, “Tobacco use is detrimental to all aspects of life; it grips users in the most productive years. We must reverse this tide. An effective way of tobacco control is to touch the young minds. If they could be weaned away from tobacco use, we believe that the battle is half won; the children and youth of today will be the policy and lawmakers of tomorrow.”

Lauding the efforts of the film fraternity, Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India said, “The film fraternity has played an extremely positive and a vital role in implementing the tobacco-free film and television policy. India has pioneered this policy and it would not have been possible without the support of the film and television industry.”

“Our actors are ‘role models’ who can and do impact behaviour, especially of the youth. I would request them to join this movement against tobacco and help save precious lives,” he added.

The consultation had participation of high level officials from key agencies responsible for implementing the tobacco free film policy; Mr Ashok Mittal, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; Mr Pahlaj Nihalani, Chairman, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC); Mr Anurag Shrivastav, CEO, CBFC; Mr A. K. Jha, Economic Advisor, MoHFW; Mr Amal Pusp, Director, MoHFW; Mr Siddhartha Roy Kapoor, President, Film and Television Producer Guild of India; and Mr Ashoke Pandit, Member, Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association. The participants also included representatives from the Regional CBFC Boards, Film and Television Producers Guild, Regional Film Associations, Film and Television Production Houses, Media, State Nodal Officers (National Tobacco Control Programme), experts, tobacco victims, researchers and civil society.

The consultation called upon the Government of India and Film & TV industry for strengthening implementation of the tobacco-free film rule notified under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). The workshop concluded with a set of recommendations, which are expected to further strengthen and streamline the implementation of these Rules.

Key highlights of the study

The overall implementation of the Film Rules was higher in film theaters than on television. Despite its inconsistent implementation, audience reactions to the anti-tobacco messages recalled were favourable and indicated an increased concern about tobacco’s harms and an increased intention to quit.

Implementation in film theaters: Ninety-nine per cent of films that contained tobacco scenes implemented at least one of the three elements of the Film Rule: the anti-tobacco health spots, the audio-visual disclaimer or the health warning as a static message. However, only 27% of the films implemented all key elements of the Film Rules, fully and appropriately

Implementation on television: Overall, the implementation of the Film Rule on television was low. No television programme implemented all key elements required by the Film Rules and only 4% of the TV programmes implemented at least two of the three elements of the Film Rules. Further, 48% of the television programmes were found to carry unapproved and non-compliant anti-tobacco health warnings as static messages.