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October 3rd, 2008:

No Butts As Anti-smoking Minister Targets Bollywood Star

S. N. M. Abdi – SCMP – Updated on Oct 03, 2008

The Indian government’s campaign to curb smoking has spilled over into a very public spat between a crusading minister and Bollywood’s reigning superstar.

From yesterday, a new law bans smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants. In his zeal to wean smokers off the habit – which kills more people in India than in any other country – Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has targeted chain-smoking actor Shah Rukh Khan.

“The clash between the politician and the film hero throws a spotlight on the landmark Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008, which empowers state-appointed watchdogs for the first time to slap fines ranging from 200 to 1,000 rupees (HK$32 to HK$160) for lighting up virtually anywhere except parks, roads and homes,” said columnist Rajat Roy.

“Khan is known for his addiction to cigarettes in real life as well as smoking scenes in many a super-hit film. So targeting one of India’s most high-profile smokers makes a lot of sense.”

Mr Ramadoss has ordered a non-governmental organisation in Mumbai to bombard the actor’s palatial house daily with pamphlets highlighting the effects of cigarettes. The minister has also instructed the NGO to flood the actor’s wife and son with letters and e-mails warning them about the threat nicotine poses to his health.

“Shah Rukh must stop smoking both on and off screen because our studies show that popular actors and actresses exercise a big influence on teenagers and youths of both sexes. He is a role model for the young generation, which is increasingly getting addicted to cigarettes. I expect him to kick the habit for the sake of the country,” says Mr Ramadoss who boasts that he is waging a war against smoking.

“While I appreciate the minister’s concern, I do not like anyone telling me what to do and what not to do,” an unfazed Khan retorted.

“I will quit smoking if I decide to. I might give up smoking – and I might not. I’m fully aware of the consequences of inhaling nicotine. But it’s a personal issue between me, my family and my doctor, and I thoroughly disapprove of it being made a public issue.”

The acclaimed actor – who has featured in more than 100 smoking scenes since 1991 and tops a recent list of Bollywood’s “serial offenders” compiled by the World Health Organisation – is even more critical of the minister’s attempts to ban smoking scenes in films and television serials.

“Contrary to claims, films do not glorify murder, rape, robbery or smoking and drinking. These negative aspects are depicted because they are a reality. Films reflect what’s happening around us. So cinema can’t portray only good things as everyday life is a mix of the good and the bad.”

Mr Ramadoss refuses to buy the argument. “India has the highest number of smokers who get addicted between the age of 13 and 15 in South Asia,” he says. “And the biggest culprits are films and superstars. Tragically, more and more youngsters and women are using tobacco because films glorify smoking. Some 15 million Indians go to the movies every day. So one can imagine the magnitude of the incitement.

“Our data shows that 52 per cent of children smoked their first cigarette under the influence of film celebrities.”

Besides Khan, Mr Ramadoss has also attacked former Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan for popularising what he derisively calls “the cancer stick”.

The minister, whose campaign is reportedly backed by India’s teetotal prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and ruling Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi, says that the new legislation and targeting Bollywood’s smoking stars are in the public interest because 1 million Indians die annually from smoking-related diseases.

The latest National Family Health Survey shows that 33 per cent of men across India aged 15 to 49 are smokers. In urban areas, 31 per cent of women in the same age bracket are addicted to cigarettes. The trend is particularly alarming because, in 1995, only 10 per cent of women smoked.

His drive, Mr Ramadoss insists, also makes economic sense: while the tobacco industry is worth 350 billion rupees, the government is forced to spend 360 billion rupees annually on treating and preventing tobacco-related diseases.

As of yesterday, anyone lighting up in government and private buildings, including workplaces, cafes, restaurants, schools, hotels, pubs, discos, stadiums, railway stations, airports, hospitals and bus stands, will be fined.

The new law also bans matches, lighters and ashtrays from public spaces. However, airports, hotels with more than 30 rooms and restaurants seating more than 30 diners, are permitted to have a smoking bay.

“We have excluded roads and parks from the list of no-smoking zones although, strictly speaking, they are public places. Homes, too, are exempted but I expect smokers to seek the permission of their spouse and children before lighting up in their residence,” Mr Ramadoss said.

A survey conducted five days before the clampdown by Mumbai’s Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health showed that 92 per cent of respondents in the four largest cities – Mumbai, New Delhi, Calcutta and Chennai – are in favour of smoke-free public spaces and workplaces, while 99 per cent want smoke-free restaurants.

“The public evidently can’t wait for the implementation of the new law, whose prime objective is to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke,” said Monika Arora, convenor of the Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control, an NGO fighting for tougher anti-smoking regulations.

But the tobacco and hotel industries are up in arms against the new law and are apparently planning to sue the government in the Supreme Court. An Indian Tobacco Company spokesman said that the ban on smoking in workplaces could be easily challenged because it includes private offices like a lawyer’s chamber or a painter’s studio.

Similarly, the Indian Hotels Association has objected to the banning of matchboxes and lighters in restaurants.

“I would not be able to organise a candlelit dinner. I cannot even use matchboxes if there is a power cut,” complained one association spokesman.

But Ms Arora says that the hospitality industry had no reason to worry. She cited research from Australia, Canada and the US that shows anti-smoking legislation had no negative impact on sales, revenues or employment in restaurants, bars and hotels in the long run.

Mr Ramadoss has also read the riot act to powerful politicians.

He told a TV channel that Buddhadev Bhattacharya, West Bengal’s chain-smoking chief minister, should not light up in Writer’s Building, the administrative headquarters of the state government. Mr Bhattacharya remains defiant, saying he has no plans to quit smoking.

Kill The Tobacco Industry, Or It Will Keep Killing

Simon Chapman and Becky Freeman – The Sydney Morning Herald | October 3, 2008

This month in Rio de Janeiro, the global tobacco industry’s annual conference features a special session on what many are seeing as its Armageddon: plain, generic packaging. All packs are identical except for the brand name, printed in standard font. No colours, no logos, no box variations. Nothing but the brand and the health warning.

The British Government has released a consultation paper on the idea. Morgan Stanley advised its clients recently that “homogenous packaging” would “significantly restrict the industry’s ability to promote their products”.
Tobacco Journal International, the industry’s main trade journal, had as its latest cover story a warning:
“Plain packaging can kill your business.”
That’s the whole idea, ladies and gentlemen.

The World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, now ratified by 160 nations, is rapidly accelerating a long overdue regulation of the tobacco industry. Plain packaging has not happened in any nation yet, but the race is on. Here is why it is the most important next step in reducing Australia’s leading cause of death.When you take a doctor’s prescription to a pharmacy for a drug designed to prolong life, relieve pain or symptoms or in some way promote health, radically different things happen than when you buy a packet of cigarettes.

First, the pharmaceutical company making the drug will have spent a small fortune trialling it to see if it does what it is meant to do – such as act as an effective contraceptive or lower blood pressure – and that it does not cause adverse reactions that are so severe as to radically alter the cost-benefit ratio of the drug (for example, chemotherapy for cancer often causes nausea but may prolong life).

Tobacco companies, by contrast, have to meet no standards for their products and can add any legal substance that will, for example, get nicotine to your brain faster or mask the astringent, choking sensation of smoke. While Philip Morris once withdrew its salmonella-contaminated Kraft peanut butter from shops because it might have harmed customers, it is relaxed and comfortable about half of its best customers dying from using its tobacco products in the intended way.

Next, your prescription will be made up by a pharmacist with a minimum four-year university degree, while your cigarettes will be handed to you by someone who may have left school at 15.

You will get a limited supply from the pharmacist and have to go back to your doctor if you want a repeat prescription.
With cigarettes, you can buy as many as you like. If a pharmacist supplied drugs to someone without a prescription, they would be fined, perhaps jailed and almost certainly struck off the register. If a store supplies cigarettes to a child, hell would freeze over before they were caught or any serious action taken.In the pharmacy, prescribed drugs are not on open display but stored in the dispensary. Until now, cigarettes have been on open display, sending the message that they are profoundly ordinary products, no different from sweets, soft drinks and groceries.

Verity Firth, when she was the minister for cancer, prepared a raft of reforms that will have their final reading in State Parliament on Friday. The most important “denormalising” proposal will see all tobacco products stored out of site, as occurs in Canada, Thailand and Iceland.

The final difference between tobacco and prescribed drugs is packaging. When you pick up your next prescription, check out the plain, dull box. It is not designed to express the product’s “personality” or to confer prestige or some other desirable attribute in the user. It simply states the drug’s name, dosage and any contraindications. Tobacco products, by contrast, are the result of ongoing market testing to ensure they are as attractive and beguiling as possible, particularly to what the industry euphemistically calls “starters” or “young adult smokers”.

Research released this week by Professor Melanie Wakefield, from the Cancer Council Victoria, shows how smokers feel about plain packaged cigarettes. When shown regular packaged brands and the dull, generic packs, the 813 smokers rated the dull packs as much less attractive and popular, and those who would smoke them as much less stylish, outgoing and mature than smokers of the original pack. They inferred that cigarettes from the plain packs would be less satisfying and of lower quality.

The federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has repeatedly put prevention front and centre of national health policy. By making Australia lead the world – by taking a step that the history of tobacco control suggests is inevitable – she could start global dominoes tumbling, and save millions of lives. If the tobacco industry thinks plain packaging will kill its business, no stronger recommendation is available.

Simon Chapman is a professor of public health and Becky Freeman is a doctoral student on the future of tobacco control at the University of Sydney.

Source:How does increasingly plainer cigarette packaging influence adult smokers’ perceptions about brand image? An experimental study

Tob Control. Published Online First: 30 September 2008.

Melanie A Wakefield, Daniella Germain, Sarah J Durkin

The Cancer Council Victoria, Australia……

Editor’s note: The full text PDF is freely available from the link immediately above. If this link does not work, please send your request to and kindly remember to include the name of the full citation (study title, journal and authors’ names) and your e-mail address in the body of your message.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald