Smoking ban proposed on screen

MUMBAI: On May 31, the Ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Health have proposed to ban smoking scenes in films and television, according to a declaration made by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss. The saving grace is that it is not the final verdict, as the matter is still with Delhi High Court on account of the petition filed by Mahesh Bhatt. The government will place before the court the consensus and the new anti-tobacco laws by July 1.

Earlier the Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi had some differences but it looks like that they are ironed out. The ministers have now decided to set up a joint censor authority by appointing members from both the ministries to scrutinize portraying of smoking scenes much to the chagrin of government claims that it will not attack creativity and freedom of expression. As prohibition is to be made on small screen as well, one wonders from where the government will find to people to monitor 100s of channels that run round-the-clock.

Time and again it is said that youngsters adapt to smoking seeing their favourite stars light a cigarette for a macho image. If that’s so, why not accept the habit of respecting our elders, especially by touching their parents feet or dancing in the garden during their romantic liaisons with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

If the committee permits the director to show an actor smoking on the screen, then the actor will have to personally issue a disclaimer before and after stating that – smoking is injurious to health. One can imagine that while essaying a historical or fictional character there will have to be scrolls on the ills of smoking to run one minute visual before and after the scene.

Nobody will dispute the contention that smoking is injurious to health. Statistical estimates that millions of people die due to use of tobacco related products. If the government really wants its people to quit smoking, then it should ban the manufacturing of tobacco products. But it is a difficult ball game as this industry is pegged at around Rs. 9000 crores in revenue. Thus government cannot ban the tobacco farming. It is always the film industry that comes under the receiving end time and again!

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