‘Anti-tobacco Health spots & Disclaimers in films must be rotated regularly to avoid over exposure’

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A recent study supported the government has recommended strengthening of the anti-tobacco film rules and said that the anti-tobacco health spots & disclaimers in films must be rotated regularly to avoid over exposure and resultant ineffectiveness.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation Of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) was enacted in 2003 to prohibit and regulate advertisement & display of tobacco products among other things. The rules framed in 2004 and then amended in 2005 and 2012 prohibit advertisement and display of tobacco products in multiple ways. The 2012 rules have detailed rules on portrayal of smoking in films. Now a study by a non-profit, that is guided by the government has recommended that anti-tobacco health spots & disclaimers in films must be rotated regularly to avoid over exposure  that could result in ineffectiveness.

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Rules for films & television programs displaying tobacco products

The amended rules in 2012 mandate the following four rules for new films and television programs displaying tobacco products or their use.

  • Strong editorial justification explaining the necessity of display of tobacco products or their use in the film to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)
  • Anti-tobacco health spots of minimum 30 seconds duration each at the beginning and middle of the film or the television program.
  • Anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent static message at the bottom of the screen during the period of display of the tobacco products or their use in the film and television program.
  • An audio-visual disclaimer on the ill-effects of tobacco use, of minimum twenty seconds duration each, in the beginning and middle of the film and television program.

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These rules were framed in consultation with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Ministry of Health has also developed health spots like the film on Mukesh for insertion in films.

The rules also mandate that the static message should be legible and readable and placed prominently at the bottom of the screen and that the font of the message should be in black color, on white background.

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Only 27% films in the sample implemented all four rules

The study involved interviews with men and women aged 15 – 50 years. 308 movies across four regions in India were coded and exit interviews were conducted with 3,080 people. The movies were chosen in such a way that at least 50% of them contained a tobacco scene. The study found that

  • 99% of films that contained tobacco scenes implemented at least one of the three elements of the Film Rule – that is, either the anti-tobacco health spots, the audio-visual disclaimer or the health warning as a static message.
  • Only 27% of the films implemented all key elements of the Film Rules fully and appropriately.
  • Among audiences who recalled at least one aspect of the Film Rule, there was general agreement that the various aspects of the Film Rule were easy to understand and made them stop and think.
  • One in two people who recalled any element of the Film Rule said that it increased their concern about tobacco’s health harms.
  • One in three tobacco users said that viewing any of the elements of the Film Rule made them more likely to quit.

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The anti-tobacco health spots & disclaimers must be rotated regularly

 Overall, the study found that the implementation of the Film Rules was higher in film theaters than on television. The study also made various recommendations that are supported by the government.  Some of the recommendations made are the following.

  • To facilitate implementation of the film rules, clear guidelines with a check list may be developed as a reference tool for designated officials at CBFC to refer to while reviewing and certifying films
  • An online platform that provides pre-approved content, especially the anti-tobacco health spots and audio-visual disclaimers that are expected to be more frequently updated, may be considered.
  • The anti-tobacco health spots and the audio-visual disclaimers must be rotated regularly, preferably every 3 months, so as to avoid over exposure (and resultant ineffectiveness) of the content among target audiences.
  • To strengthen implementation on television, the appropriate administrative channels for the smooth and streamlined implementation of all the key elements under the Film Rules must be identified.
  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should put in place a mechanism to monitor television programs that display tobacco products or their use and ensure compliance.
  • Regular advisory should be sent to all the TV channels and Film producers to ensure that all the 4 key elements of the Film Rules are duly implemented.
  • National Consultation with stakeholders to strengthen the implementation of the Film Rule.
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