Big Tobacco Resorts to Films for Cigarettes Brand Advertisement in India

Big Tobacco is continuously relying on films for the promotion its business in India and other countries following the ban on tobacco advertisement implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Recently, major tobacco companies have also been refused the sponsorship of various entertainment events, prompting it to switch to films.

Smoking scenes in movies

An analysis of well-known and popular films has demonstrated that cigarette brand displays increased in Bollywood after its advertising was prohibited in the media in 2004. Of the 395 blockbusters in 1990-2002, 76 % showed smoking scenes. The percentage of scenes depicting popular actors and main heroes smoking rose from 22 in 1991 to 54 in 2002. For instance of 110 Hindi movies made in 2004-2005, 89 % showed smoking. The main actors lighted up in 76% of these movies.

The cigarette brand display was more or less equal between premium smokes belonging to the leading British American Tobacco and its division, the Indian Tobacco Company and rival brands being the property of Philip Morris International whose entry into the Indian cigarette market coincided with the ban on tobacco advertising.

Using films to advertise smoking is a wide spread phenomenon. For example, in the UK, where almost all forms of cigarette advertising are banned, teen-rated movies from the US contained 83% of all tobacco displays in 2001-2006. A research group in Australia found that 70 % of all films showed smoking scenes, including 75% of the most popular movies. In Canada about 75% of tobacco scenes appeared in teen rated movies.

The on-screen displays are usually consistent with tobacco promotion than with the similar representations of the dangerous health consequences of smoking, according to the WHO. Such scenes back the tobacco industry and raise the attractiveness toward smoking among the young people.

Hamish Maxwell the CEO of Philip Morris Companies had admitted this fact in 1983. “Our company believes that it is important to continue explore new possibilities in order to get cigarette on screen, thus keeping smoking socially acceptable,” he said in an interview.

WHO proposes to introduce adult rating for all movies containing tobacco scenes in order to lower their affect on young people. The exception probably can be done to those movies that show hazardous consequences of smoking.

Some facts

  • Films have been related to youth smoking in China, England, Hong Kong, Germany, India, Italy, Iceland, Mexico, The Netherlands, Poland, Scotland and Thailand;
  • Of the most popular films 1990-2002 in India, 76% showed smoking;
  • Scenes depicting main actors smoking increased from 225 to 54%;
  • Of the 110 Hindi produced films, 89% showed smoking scenes.