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OTT platforms no to India's tobacco ban
Law unto themselves? Noble objective goes up in smoke
Hyderabad: The Public Health Organizations, schools students, teachers, and parents have urged the Government of India to act against tobacco advertising and glamorization of tobacco use in OTT platforms, in order to protect the children from exposure to tobacco products display on these OTT platforms.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), "Tobacco imagery in on-demand streaming content popular among adolescents and young adults in India: implications for global tobacco control" revealed that OTT platforms are flouting Government of India regulations on exposure to tobacco imagery.
The study assessed tobacco depictions in ten television series available via on-demand streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, and many others. Incidents of tobacco use and tobacco brands in each series were counted and compliance with Indian Laws was recorded.
The BMJ study revealed that there is a rampant depiction of tobacco use and tobacco brand placement. The shows with tobacco depictions included both foreign-produced and Indian-produced series and most were rated for viewers below 18 years, thus targeting youth and children.
Many of the series showed tobacco brands as well as close-ups of tobacco products and tobacco usage. None of the series included anti-tobacco static warning messages, anti-tobacco health spots, or audiovisual disclaimers about the ill effects of tobacco use under 2012 Rules (G.S.R. 786(E)) - notified under COTPA in pursuance of the prohibition on tobacco advertising.
The BMJ study is limited to ten television series but it provides conclusive evidence that the streaming services are completely disregarding India's high standards for restricting and containing tobacco depictions in the media.
This is of particular concern because on-demand streaming platforms are becoming increasingly popular in India, especially with young viewers. A 2019 study by KPMG reported that there were 325 million viewers of on-demand streaming platforms in India, and that young people (age 15-24) spent an average of 70 minutes per day watching online video content.
According to sources, MoHFW has recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology highlighting that the tobacco film rules are applicable on OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hotstar as well and strict action may kindly be taken for prohibiting the depiction of tobacco use through streaming media in connection with the extant provisions under COTPA, 2003.
Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India, said, "The streaming media has become a haven for the promotion of tobacco use and this extensive promotion is to undermine Government film rules and provisions discourage tobacco use.
We urged the Government to take necessary action to ensure these online streaming platforms are compliant with COTPA, relevant rules and any other applicable laws in order to protect the children from exposure to tobacco products display on the OTT platforms"
♦ Public health fraternity, school students, teachers and parents appeal to the government to act against tobacco advertising and glamorisation of tobacco use on OTT platforms
♦ The implementing guidelines for Article 13 of the WHO framework convention on Tobacco Control recommends that parties should prohibit the use of tobacco brands or imagery in entertainment media and require anti-tobacco advertisements. India is a global leader in meeting these requirements of the WHO FCTC
♦ Section 5 of India's Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) imposes a complete ban on tobacco advertising and promotion in any form of media. Section 5 of COTPA is blatantly being violated in the OTT platforms
You can complain
A study conducted by World Health Organization and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India revealed that 76% of Indian movies had tobacco use shown in them and 52.2% of children in India who had their first smoke were influenced by tobacco use depicted in movies.
Recently, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar, and 12 other online video-streaming platforms and curated content providers signed a self-regulation code, allowing consumers to report policy violations on their content.