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NEW DELHI : Actor Amitabh Bachchan has sent a legal notice to pan masala brand Kamala Pasand for continuing to air ads featuring him. The 79-year old actor had withdrawn from the advertising campaign this October, weeks after the national anti-tobacco organisation requested him to refrain from endorsing pan masala to help wean youngsters off tobacco.

Bachchan’s spokesperson confirmed the move but Kamala Pasand did not respond to Mint’s queries.

A statement from public relations firm Universal Communications this October had said Bachchan had contacted the brand to step back.

“Upon checking why this sudden move -- it was revealed that when Mr Bachchan became associated with the brand, he wasn’t aware that it falls under surrogate advertising. Mr Bachchan has terminated the contract with the brand, has written to them his termination and returned the money received for the promotion," a statement from the actor’s office, had said.

Released mid-September, the ad is a surrogate one mentioning Kamla Pasand "silver coated elaichi" but had drawn social media flak almost immediately. Bachchan had initially responded to some users defending his stance and saying taking up projects helps both artistes and other employees of the entertainment ecosystem. The actor features in the ad with Ranveer Singh who plays his son.

Surrogate advertising is defined as a form of advertising which is used to promote banned products, like cigarettes or tobacco and alcohol, in the disguise of another product.

The Code for Self-Regulation of Advertising Content in India by ASCI (The Advertising Standards Council of India) outlines among harmful situations (in advertising), featuring “personalities from the field of sports and entertainment for products which, by law, require a health warning such as “….. is injurious to health" in their advertising or packaging."

Other stars who endorse pan masala brands include Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn for Vimal Elaichi. In 2018, Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan was entangled in a controversy when he was appointed brand ambassador for Pan Bahar, a pan masala brand. He later admitted he was tricked into endorsing a product the company did not disclose was a health hazard.

Varuni Khosla contributed to this story.

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