India’s health ministry has revealed strict guidelines for video-on-demand streaming services, entailing warnings about smoking and the use of other tobacco products when such activities are depicted on screen. The new regulations, called the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Amendment Rules 2023, will go into effect in three months.
The updated policy requires tobacco control health points to be listed, for at least half a minute, at the opening and middle of the programme. It also requires the prominent display of a health warning in the form of text at the lower end of the screen during sequences depicting tobacco consumption.
In addition, an audiovisual disclaimer detailing the harmful impact of tobacco consumption, lasting at least 20 seconds, will be required at the start and midway point of any programme. This provision is an essential part of the Ministry of Health’s concerted efforts to intensify its anti-smoking campaign.
Tobacco consumption in India is significant, as the country is one of the largest consumers of tobacco worldwide. More than 260 million adults in India use tobacco in some form, with smokeless tobacco being the most prevalent form. The new rules also align with similar regulations that have been in place for television broadcasters in the South Asian market for more than a decade.
In another attempt to reduce the glamorization of smoking, the policy states that streaming platforms are prohibited from displaying the brands of any cigarettes or other tobacco products. It is also no longer possible to use the same products in any Platform content promotional material.
The new rules give power to representatives of both the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to take punitive action if any broadcast platform fails to comply with the regulations.