Shahrukh Khan smokes at IPL Cricket matches

Shahrukh Khan smokes at IPL Cricket matches
To read this posting in Hindi language, click here

India's noted film-star and bollywood heartthrob, 'the King Khan' - Shahrukh Khan, again smoked cigarette after cigarette in full public view at the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches last week. To see the photographs, click here and to read the news, click here

Dr Shekhar Salkar from National Organization for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE) who has been contributing significantly in strengthening tobacco control in India, was one of the few to raise concerns on the blatant disregard by Shahrukh of the repeated pleas from not only the health advocates, but also of the India's Health and Family Welfare minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, which is also in-sync with the provisions of The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (2003).

Shahrukh Khan and other film-stars have defended smoking-on-screen for 'creativity'.

Ajay Devgan, another leading film-star had said last week (to read click here):

"There should not be a ban on smoking especially in a democracy, where everyone has a right to his opinion. If someone has to make a film on Churchill, how can it be done since he used to smoke cigars regularly? If smoking is banned in films, would you put lollypop in Churchill's mouth instead?"

Dr Ramadoss gave a befitting reply on 11 May 2008 (to read click here)
"Creativity as an art should be used for improving lives instead of taking them"

In 2006, while receiving the Luther Terry Award - the world's noted award in tobacco control - Dr Ramadoss had said (to read click here):

In an earlier study done by World Health Organization and Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2003 it was revealed that 76% of Indian movies had tobacco use shown in them. In 1991, where 22% of top box office movie hits had lead characters using tobacco on-screen, in 2002, this escalated to 53% tobacco use depiction by lead characters in Indian movies. This study also demonstrated that 52.2% of children in India who had their first smoke were influenced by tobacco use depicted in movies.

A repeat follow-up study conducted by WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India on top box office movie hits during 2004-2005 demonstrated that tobacco use depiction in movies has become more aggressive as compared to previous years. During 2004-2005, 89% of all movies analyzed contained tobacco use on screen and 75.5% movies depicted leading stars using tobacco on screen. Moreover 41% of movies screened had clear and distinct tobacco brand placement.

The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 came into effect since May 31, 2003. Explaining the amendments notified on May 31, 2005, Dr Ramadoss had said that movies showing tobacco use will be given 'A' certificate on the condition that the characters using tobacco on screen agree to do a disclosure stating tobacco hazards clearly either before, middle or before the end of that movie.

Health warnings in the same language as that of the movie would start scrolling up 1 minute before the use of tobacco is depicted in movies and will end not before another minute after the depiction of tobacco use stops in that movie.

"One of the easiest ways to significantly bring down number of children and youth who get initiated to tobacco use in India, without any budgetary allocation for this public health exercise, is to remove depiction of tobacco use in films and TV"

On 27 January 2008 Dr Ramadoss had said (to read click here):

"The movies are most responsible (for encouraging smoking). When I said movies should not have smoking scenes we have statistics which show that 52 per cent of children have their first puff of a cigarette because of movie celebrities,"

"..I have already made appeals to Shah Rukh Khan...I would like to make an appeal to him and Amitabh Bachchan and all other personalities," Ramadoss said in an interview to a private news channel. He was also critical of Khan for smoking at a cricket match.

In March 2008, Shatrughan Sinha, another legendary film-star and politician had said (to read click here)

"There is an urgent need to spread the awareness about the deadly effects of tobacco products in the nation, particularly in rural areas where most people still remain ignorant to the ill effects of tobacco"

On 11 May 2008 an op-ed article was published (to read click here) written by Dr Ramadoss.

Tamil actor Rajnikant's two latest movies were smoke-free and both were the biggest hits in the history of the Indian film industry. I wish some of the celebrities could come forward to tell the people that a can of Pepsi/Coco-cola contains 5-7 spoonfuls of sugar and a packet of chips contains 500 calories, and also its adverse impact on the health of its users.

We do not overlook the impact Amitabh Bachchan has had on our Pulse Polio campaign as a brand ambassador, or the contribution of our celebrities in promoting several campaigns under the National Rural Health Mission. It would be a service to humanity if this impact were replicated in removing social evils.

Experts also say smoking scenes in movies are more effective than direct forms of tobacco advertisements. Surveys have shown that 52 per cent of youngsters start smoking after being influenced by movies.

It is, therefore, not difficult to imagine the kind of impact smoking in films has on our youth, particularly in the context of more brand visibility of cigarette companies in films.

Still, surrogate advertisements have increased with the latest platform being the Indian Premier League cricket matches, which have a massive viewership. The Indian Cinematography Act, 1952 prohibits glamorising smoking in movies but the law is violated and there is not a word of protest from anywhere. An efficient Censor Board would not be keeping quiet on the glamorising of alcohol and tobacco and the vulgar depiction of obscenity in movies.