New regulation in India seeks to stub out tobacco glorification on streaming platforms

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India’s health ministry has unveiled stringent guidelines for on-demand video streaming services, necessitating warnings about smoking and the use of other tobacco products when such activities are portrayed on screen. The new regulations, termed as the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Amendments Rules, 2023, will come into effect in three months.

The updated policy mandates the incorporation of anti-tobacco health spots, of at least half a minute in duration, at the opening and midpoint of the programme. It also necessitates the prominent display of a health warning in the form of text at the lower end of the screen during sequences that depict tobacco consumption.

In addition, an audio-visual disclaimer detailing the harmful impact of tobacco consumption, lasting no less than 20 seconds, will be required at the outset and halfway point of any programme. This clause is a key part of the health ministry’s concerted efforts to ramp up its anti-smoking campaign.

Tobacco consumption in India is significant, with the country being one of the largest consumers of tobacco worldwide. Over 260 million adults in India use tobacco in some form, with smokeless tobacco being the most prevalent form.

In a further attempt to curb the glamorisation of smoking, the policy stipulates that streaming platforms are prohibited from displaying the branding of any cigarettes or other tobacco products. The same products can also no longer be used within any promotional material for the platform’s content.

The new rules give authority to representatives from both the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Electronics and IT to take punitive action if any streaming platform fails to comply with the regulations.

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