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Hindi film industry exposed children to alcohol, tobacco, fast-food, says study

  • The study found that 93% films had at least one occurrence of alcohol, 70% showed tobacco, and 21% had branded fast food
  • Tobacco and alcohol occurred more in films for older people while fast-food was prominent in movies for all audience

NEW DELHI: Hindi film industry (Bollywood), in the last two decades, has exposed audience including children to tobacco, alcohol and consumption of fast-food in its films, watching which is associated with initiation of their consumption, a research published in scientific journal PLOS One has stated.

The research comes at a time when covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in media consumption as people sit home and spend more time on their screens for entertainment and games.

The study titled – ‘Trends in tobacco, alcohol and branded fast-food imagery in Bollywood films’ – analysed 300 films spanning 1994-2013 and found that 93% of the films had at least one occurrence of alcohol, 70% had at least one incident showing tobacco, and 21% films had at least one event related to branded fast food.

Tobacco and alcohol occurrences were more common in films rated for older audiences (A-rated films) whereas fast-food depiction was prominent in movies targeted for all audiences (U- and U/A-rated films), according to the study. India is the world’s largest film producer, but the extent of such imagery in Bollywood films has been unclear.

On an average, tobacco products or usage was depicted four times per film, alcohol was shown or used seven times per film, and branded fast food was shown or used 0.4 time per film, the study said adding that although depiction of tobacco in these films fell during the 20-year period of analysis, the placement of alcohol and branded fast food products significantly increased.

The researchers theorize that the downward trend in tobacco promotion from the year 2004 could be attributed to the regulations related to tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) and WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC).

“The rise in number of non-communicable diseases across the globe is linked with consumption of tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed foods. Marketing strategies that promote the consumption of these products should be strictly regulated using the broad public health perspective with an aim to reduce the burden of death and disease," said, Professor Christopher Millett, Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit, Imperial College, London.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also last week said that tobacco and nicotine industry persist by pushing products that limit people’s ability to fight coronavirus and recover from the disease indicating that showing smoking is rampant in TV and Films.

“Our study suggests that Bollywood films are contributing to promoting unhealthy behaviours in their audience, particularly children," said Dr Nandita Murukutla, author of the study and Vice President, Global Policy and Research, Vital Strategies.

The researchers have called for adoption of strong policy measures to protect the health of movie-watching audiences. Such steps should include monitoring and prohibition of product placement of unhealthy commodities on all media, considering 'A' certificate for films depicting the unhealthy items and removal of government subsidies in case of any depiction of harmful commodities.

“We require better implementation of existing laws in India, including surrogate advertisement and banning glamorisation of tobacco use via streaming entertainment," said Dr Ravi Mehrotra, Chief Executive Officer, Indian Cancer Research Consortium-India Council of Medical Research.

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