Indian Medical Groups: Smoking Should Be Banned in Films

Two major medical groups in India are calling on Bollywood's film industry to stop showing smoking in films entirely, arguing that existing on-screen warnings have little effect. It's one of many firm stances the the Indian Medical Association and the Heart Care Foundation of India have taken against smoking.

What people see in the movies can have a subtle effect on the way they act in real life.

In India, this has been a longstanding point of contention for the country’s film industry, due to the tendency of characters to smoke in films. Smoking has proven a hard habit for Indians to shake, despite an increase in warnings about health hazards, including in films and on cigarette packaging.

Now, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) are calling for a more drastic step.

“There should be [a] complete ban of smoking in films,” the groups stated in a blog post published on Thursday. “The caption below the scene that smoking is injurious to health does not stop people emulating the smoking character depicted in the film. There is enough data available to prove the point.”

The groups have doubled down on stances opposed to smoking at a time when research by ICICI Lombard, an insurance firm, shows that on-screen warnings have failed to change smokers’ behavior. Seventy-two percent of smokers surveyed said pictures or plain packaging would have no effect on their smoking habit, and just 24 percent said they would be compelled to quit by an increase in “sin taxes.”

“It emphasizes that as insurers and as a society, we are yet a long way away from spreading full awareness about the ill effects of smoking,” the insurer’s chief of underwriting, Sanjay Datta, told The Times of India.

IMA and HCFI hold other firm stances against nicotine, including opposing electronic cigarettes as a cessation tool and arguing that smoking with beedies or hookahs is more dangerous than cigarette smoking. The group has even recommended banning oral tobacco in India.

“With an increasing number of stresses being [felt] by today’s generation, resorting to cigarette smoking seems like the easy way out,” the groups’ top officials stated jointly. “However, people must be made to realize that they are signing up for lifelong health complications, high hospital bills, and unhappiness. Awareness also needs to be raised about the dangers of hookah and e-cigarette consumption, which are seen as good alternatives.”

IMA shared its guidance—which also recommends doctors regularly ask patients whether they smoke—with its 250,000 members and 1,700 chapter branches.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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