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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 17:40 GMT
Chain-smoker star in health drive
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan
The question is, has Khan really given up smoking?
India's anti-smoking campaign has a new ambassador - chain smoking Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Health Minister Ambumani Ramadoss found a new face for the cause in Khan after he pledged to quit smoking on the eve of his 40th birthday.

Shah Rukh Khan celebrated his birthday on 2 November and in an interview to an Indian media channel said he would try to quit smoking.

The health ministry is trying to ban smoking scenes in films.

Inspiring youth

Shah Rukh Khan has rarely been seen without a lit cigarette in his hand.

He has also not been shy of puffing away while being photographed or interviewed on camera, unlike other Bollywood actors who smoke.

In a letter to the film star, Dr Ramadoss said "such a public health initiative taken by a charismatic personality like you would go a long way in inspiring and protecting the youths of our country from being addicted to the use of tobacco".

Martin Lewis, a smoker in Mumbai, India
He smokes and quits for himself and I smoke for myself. I won't leave it because he does
Martin Lewis

The federal health ministry has been seriously pushing its anti-smoking campaign and this is yet another initiative taken in that direction.

Earlier this year the ministry announced its move to ban images of smoking in films and on television. It is currently working out the finer details of the ban with the information and broadcasting ministry.

If the ban comes into effect it would mean that no new movies or TV programmes could portray smoking. Old films would have to carry warnings.

Celebrity endorsers

The health ministry has used celebrities in the past to promote their health campaigns.

Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai were roped in to urge people to get their children immunised against polio.

So will Shah Rukh Khan prove to be a motivator for people to quit cigarettes?

People on the streets of Mumbai (Bombay) have mixed feelings.

Twenty-five-year-old Martin Lewis says "He smokes and quits for himself and I smoke for myself. I won't leave it because he does."

Twenty-nine year old media professional and regular smoker Kaustubh Mahajan thinks it would be very difficult for Khan to quit after being a chain smoker for years.

"It will not motivate me to throw mine. However, a reasonable number of youngsters would certainly follow his cue as they are affected by what film stars do," he said.

The actor himself is not in the country as he is busy shooting for Bollywood movie in New York.

His office confirmed they had received the letter from the health ministry.

But the big question is - is he living up to his pledge and not smoking?

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