ASCI to probe celebrity endorsements of pan masala ads

The Delhi government recently asked Bollywood actors not to promote pan masala in ads

A screen grab of the Advertising Standards Council of India website.
A screen grab of the Advertising Standards Council of India website.

New Delhi: Advertising industry body the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) will investigate campaigns by pan masala brands featuring celebrities for violation of its code in the wake of the Delhi government asking stars such as Ajay Devgan and Shah Rukh Khan not to promote such items.

“Complaints against such advertisements have been received by ASCI and are being looked into. ASCI will approach the concerned advertisers to take necessary corrective action post decision by our consumer complaints council,” ASCI secretary general Shweta Purandare said in a statement.

She said while products such as pan masala and supari are not banned for sale or from advertising by law, “the ASCI code does not permit the use of celebrities in advertisements of products which by law require health warning on its pack or cannot be purchased or used by minors”.

On 18 January, the Delhi government had written to Bollywood actors including Ajay Devgan, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Govinda, Arbaaz Khan and Sunny Leone, asking them not to endorse pan masala products as they contain areca nuts, a potential cancer causing agent.

ASCI said it would investigate into the pan masala ads and ensure that there is no violations of its code of self-regulation. As per rules and regulation laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, statutory warnings are mandatory to be printed on the pack as well as for the ads, it added.

“It has been observed that large number of pan masala brands are in potential contravention of the advertising codes under ASCI’s chapter III,” it added.

Chapter III is to safeguard against indiscriminate use of advertising in situations or promotion of products which are regarded as hazardous or harmful to society, individuals, particularly minors. Moreover, its clause 2 also specifies that advertisements of products which, by law, either require a health warning in their ads or cannot be purchased by minors “should not feature personalities from the field of sports, music and cinema”.

“It is important that the advertisers as well as celebrities are aware of this clause of ASCI code and sensitized to this issue so that they can advertise in a responsible manner,” said ASCI. PTI