World No Tobacco Day: Union health ministry directs all OTT shows to carry anti-tobacco warnings

The Union health ministry on Wednesday notified the new rules for anti-tobacco warnings on OTT platforms

Representative image of a man smoking a Four Square cigarette.  (Photo: Getty Images)
Representative image of a man smoking a Four Square cigarette. (Photo: Getty Images)

NH Digital

On World No Tobacco Day, observed annually on May 31, the Union health ministry of India notified the amended rules under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2004, making it mandatory for all OTT platforms to display anti-tobacco warnings, as displayed in films screened at theatres and most TV programmes.

Earlier on May 25, the ministry had notified their intention to amend the relevant rules, stating that the use of tobacco products and smoking are shown extensively in web series and movies streamed on OTT platforms and without any disclaimers—in clear violation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act.

The decision was taken following discussions with the Information and Broadcasting ministry and other stakeholders, a senior ministry official told PTI.

According to the official notification, publishers of OTT content displaying tobacco products or their use will be required to display anti-tobacco health spots, each of a minimum of 30 seconds at the beginning and middle of the programme.

They shall also be required to exhibit an anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent static message at the bottom of the screen when tobacco products or their use are displayed during the programme.

Further, an audio-visual disclaimer of a minimum of 20 seconds on the ill-effects of tobacco use will have to be also displayed at the beginning and middle of the programme.

"The anti-tobacco health warning message as specified in clause(b) of sub-rule (1) shall be legible and readable, with font in black colour on white background and with the warnings 'Tobacco causes cancer' or 'Tobacco kills'," the notification stated.

"If the publisher of online curated content fails to comply with the provisions of sub-rules (1) to (5), an inter ministerial committee consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, shall take action suo motu or on a complaint, and after identifying the publisher of online curated content, issue notice giving reasonable opportunity to explain such failure and make appropriate modification in the content," the notification said.

The notification delineates that 'online curated content' refers to any and all curated catalogue of audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs content, made available on demand, including but not limited through subscription, over the internet or computer networks, including films, audio visual programmes, television programmes, serials, series and other such content.

This move comes after public health campaigners in India demanded the inclusion of anti-tobacco warnings on OTT content as they attract huge viewership, particularly the younger generation.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), the annual of the the day "informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what the WHO is doing to fight against the use of tobacco, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations."

This year the theme for World No Tobacco Day is "We need food, not tobacco". The 2023 global campaign aims to raise awareness around alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers while encouraging them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops.

According to a WHO global report on tobacco published in 2019, India is one of the many countries that have banned direct tobacco advertisement on the internet, which includes OTT content. Moreover, the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2004, prohibits the display of the brands of cigarettes or other tobacco products or any form of tobacco product placement and promotional usage of tobacco products or their use.

With inputs from agencies

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