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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Anger at Indian film smoking ban
Man smoking
About 800,000 Indians die a year from smoking-related illness
Indian filmmakers have condemned as "absurd" a government move to ban images of smoking in films and on television from August.

Movie-makers said the move was an infringement of artistic expression and that films were the wrong target in the drive to curb smoking.

The government says no new films or TV programmes can portray smoking and old films must carry warnings if they do.

It says 800,000 Indians a year die from smoking-related diseases.

We all smoked because of the peer group, not because people in the cinema were smoking
Bollywood producer Shyam Benegal

The health ministry on Tuesday said there would have to be a prominent warning on films and programmes that have already been produced that contain images of actors smoking - whether Indian or foreign. It said all logos of tobacco products from now on must be masked or cut out.


Film director and producer Mahesh Bhatt condemned the move.

"One would understand a ban on surrogate advertising, but to completely ban [smoking] is ridiculous, a joke taken too far."

Fellow filmmaker, Shyam Benegal, told BBC World Business Report: "The government should go after the source - the guys who produce tobacco and make tons of money."

Reflecting on how he and his friends started smoking as adolescents and young adults, he said; "We all smoked because of the peer group, not because people in the cinema were smoking.

Mughal-e-Azam poster
Any old films must carry warnings if they do have smoking images

"I don't think it's going to make that much of a difference," he added, "it's impossible to enforce bans of this kind."

Leading actor Anupam Kher said the move could be the start of a worrying trend: "Tomorrow, the government can turn around and say don't show guns in movies as it will encourage violence."

But the government is standing by its decision and has the support of national and global health organisations.

Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said: "More and more youngsters and women are taking up tobacco use."

The World Health Organisation said the move would help cut India's smoking-related deaths.

Harsaran Pandey, WHO's spokeswoman for South-east Asia, said: "The portrayal of attractive people smoking has an influence on young people as some of them identify with those on the screens."

Last year, smoking was banned in public places in India and a ban imposed on tobacco firms' advertising in and sponsoring of sporting events.

The new law also requires manufacturers to list tar and nicotine content on packets.

Smoking curbs: The global picture
31 May 05 |  In Depth
India outlaws smoking in public
02 May 04 |  South Asia
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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