The recent blockbuster K.G.F Chapter 2 showed stylised scenes of South’s new superstar Yash smoking. And while the actor undoubtedly looked cool on screen, the resulting episodes of his young fans smoking and falling ill were decidedly uncool.
In movies, cigarettes and cigars are often used as props to reflect the pensive mood of the hero or to indicate how liberated the heroine is. In reality, well, the only thing cigarettes represent is cancerous evil for human health.
Tobacco-related cancers constitute the highest-burden among all types of diseases in India. And as of 2020, as many as 27% of cancer cases were caused due to tobacco consumption.
The Indian government has shared its fair share of health advisories, even as cigarette packets continue to be sold in broad daylight in practically every little convenience store. Anybody who frequents a movie theatre in India must be familiar with Mukesh or the ad where a little girl gazes up at her father sorrowfully as he smokes, driving him to quit. However, unfortunately, most movies and movie stars do not help the cause!
As per reports, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that tobacco consumption is shown in more than three-fourths of Bollywood films, with cigarettes making up 72% of all the portrayals. Meanwhile, a study from 2012 stated that “watching tobacco use in Bollywood movies and receptivity to tobacco promotional activities were both independently associated with ever tobacco use among adolescents in India”.
And as if the big screen was not enough to promote smoking, tobacco companies are wantonly advertising their products under the guise of surrogate advertising on television as well.
Bollywood celebrities are pretty vocal about their healthy lifestyles and strict regimes, but some are also notorious for endorsing the wrong kind of products. Take fairness creams, for instance!
Recently, Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar appeared in a popular tobacco brand’s advertisement. While memes of the tagline flooded social media, many did not find this advertisement funny.
Such promotions amount to surrogate advertising where a product that cannot be advertised directly due to being prohibited by law is sold under the guise of another product of the same brand. In this case, the mouth freshener is advertised instead of directly showing the tobacco product.
Amitabh Bachchan and Ranveer Singh were also seen endorsing another popular pan masala brand. Even legal action has been sought against Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan and Ranveer Singh for surrogate advertising. Meanwhile, Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan have acknowledged the public criticism and decided to step back from association with such brands.
Not just Bollywood, many other Indian movies and movie stars have faced criticism for promoting smoking and tobacco products either through surrogate advertising or in their films.
Considering how a majority of the Indian population looks up to these celebs, their fans numbering in the millions, the responsibility of choosing what they endorse falls upon them.
One can only hope that these stars recognise the true weight of their words and refrain from bestowing their approval on tobacco-ridden products.
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