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India bans smoking scenes in films

India has banned smoking scenes in movies and on television, saying they glamorise the use of cigarettes but the move has angered filmmakers in Bollywood.

India bans smoking scenes in films

India has banned smoking scenes in movies and on television, saying they glamorise the use of cigarettes but the move has angered filmmakers in the prolific Bollywood movie industry. In tough new regulations, the health ministry said distributors and directors would have to show health warnings on screens in old movies and TV shows, whether Indian or foreign, that showed actors smoking. There would have to be a mandatory display of a prominent scroll containing a health warning in programmes containing scenes with smoking situations that have been produced before this notification, according to a ministry statement. The new rules also mean names or logos of tobacco products would have to be cut or masked. Thailand also banned smoking scenes in films in 2000. Bollywood, which turns out three times more movies than Hollywood, often depicts its macho heroes with cigarettes or cheaper-priced hand rolled bidis dangling from their lips. It is an absurd regulation to ban smoking on screen; it is ridiculous and a joke taken too far, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said. Another director, Shyam Benegal, said the move would interfere with artistic expression. According to him smoking act comes in handy when you want to develop a character. The ban does not make sense. But the World Health Organisation, which estimates smoking is linked to more than 800,000 deaths in India a year, mainly among men aged between 25 to 69, lauded the move. Portrayal of attractive people smoking has an influence on young people as some of them identify with those on the screens. In May 2004, India banned smoking in public places such as railway stations and parks as well as tobacco advertising and sponsorship by tobacco firms of sporting events.
The Health Ministry,
June 2005
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