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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK

World: South Asia

Indian tobacco ads 'encourage smoking'

The number of children taking up smoking increased four-fold

Indian teenagers have been encouraged to take up smoking following tobacco sponsorship of the national cricket team, a survey has said.

The survey, due to be released later this month by the Indian Medical Association, says that tobacco advertising during the 1996 Cricket World Cup encouraged children between the ages of 13 and 17 to start smoking.

[ image: Indian cricket stars sport the Wills logo]
Indian cricket stars sport the Wills logo
The results show there was nearly a four-fold increase in the number of children who took up smoking during the tournament.

The survey argues the increase was due to a leading Indian tobacco company sponsoring the World Cup.

The Indian Tobacco Company, once affiliated to British American Tobacco, was the main sponsor of the Wills World Cup, named after one of its cigarette brands.

Campaign against logo

Anti-smoking campaigners in the West are now stepping up their efforts to stop Indian cricket players from displaying the Wills logo on their shirts.

The British anti-smoking charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), says the report lends more weight to its argument for smoking adverts to be banned from international cricket.

[ image: Anti-smoking groups want tobacco advertising banned from sport]
Anti-smoking groups want tobacco advertising banned from sport
Last month, ASH made a formal complaint to the England and Wales Cricket Board about the Indian cricket team's World Cup replica shirts displaying the Wills logo.

ASH said the shirts were available in children's sizes and sold internationally.

One of the authors of the Indian Medical Association report, Jayant Vaidya, supported the ASH stance.

"There should be no advertising of tobacco in any form, especially in sponsorships of sport, which is a total irony because sport gives a health message," he told the BBC.

Dr Vaidya said many children in India were encouraged to smoke when they saw their heroes in the cricket team wearing the Wills logo.

Children felt they would become better cricket players if they smoked, he said.

Many of the players do not smoke, but did not seem to be aware of the problem, Dr Vaidya said.

Australia is among the countries that has banned tobacco sponsorship of its premier cricket tournaments.

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