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Tobacco industry paying stars: Minister

Last updated on: June 24, 2005 14:37 IST

Charging the tobacco industry with directly paying heroes to smoke on the screen, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss has said he is determined to ensure a complete ban on such portrayals from October.

"I am not afraid of any lobby. I am determined to implement the ban," he said on Thursday.

Claiming he had definite information the tobacco industry was directly paying heroes to show smoking scenes in the films, he said, "Unfortunately I have no proof."

"It is my duty to prevent this. We did not take a decision overnight but after deliberating the issue for quite some time," Ramdoss said.

"I am not against the film industry but the movie industry is being used by the tobacco industry," he said, adding that out of 800 to 900 movies made in India annually 76 per cent depicted smoking scenes.

Citing a study by internationally acclaimed medical journal Lancet, he said 52 per cent of children take to smoking due to movies and the influence of smoking scenes in films is 16 per cent more effective than direct tobacco advertisement.

"When millions of people give polio drops to their children inspired by Amitabh Bacchhan's appeal, the impact of the smoking scenes is not difficult to imagine," he said.

He also congratulated Tamil superstar Rajnikanth for not showing any smoking scene in his latest film Chandramukhi.

"As the country's health minister, I am concerned that 40 per cent of the health-related problems from cancer to cardiovascular ailments, kidney, skin allergy, lung problems and miscarriages are caused due to smoking," he said.

The minister has also announced a total ban on tobacco vending machines from August 1.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had earlier this month deferred the Health Ministry's recommendation to implement the ban from August 1 to October 2.

The minister recalled there was a huge hue and cry in the US Congress over the alleged direct payment made by the tobacco industry to Hollywood stars in the seventies to glamourise smoking.

While the tobacco industry is pegged at Rs 30,000 to 35,000 crore, the expenditure of the government's private sector and judiciary on dealing with tobacco-related diseases is estimate at Rs 35,000 crore per annum, he said.

Ramdoss said he was not enacting any new law but only ensuring stricter implementation on the Indian cinematographers Act, 1952, which prohibited glamourisation of smoking in movies as also the Anti Tobacco Act.

Rejecting the charge that his decision will throttle creativity, he said artistic freedom has creativity therefore the betterment of society and not for causing harm to the innocent moviegoers.

He, however, said films showing historical characters (in smoking scenes) have been exempted from the purview of the decision.

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