From 2nd October 2008, the ban on public smoking become law in India and actors such as Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan, Sanjay Dutt and Vivek Oberoi amongst others, who are known for the smoking off the screen, will need to fully abide by the ruling and are no exception to the law.
Smoking is now banned in public places including cinemas, bars, restaurants, railway stations, office buildings, hospitals, schools, colleges, airports, bus stands and hotels. Anti-smoking squads have been set-up to tackle breaking of this law. People caught smoking will have an instant Rs 200 (£2.40) fine.
A packet of cigarettes in India cost about Rs 50 (59p) and the country is known to be the third largest consumer of tobacco in the world. The smoking ban is estimated to affect over 230 million tobacco users in the nation.
The Minister for Health, Anbumani Ramadoss has already come down heavy on film stars who smoke on the screen, stating that their actions corrupt young minds and lure them into accepting that smoking is a feasible habit.
The controversial attempt to ban smoking on screen in the past by the Health Ministry was not fully successful and became a point of contention for film makers stating it would constrain artisitc values in movies. Therefore, ‘on screen’ smoking will need to abide by a strict guideline issued previously against scenes that depict smoking in a glorified manner.
It’s reported that Ramadoss had also taken strong objections to Shahrukh Khan smoking in the remake of Don. A notification was sent out, stating that an actor seen smoking in a movie would have to shoot a small audio-visual segment warning people that smoking was injurious to health. This would then be used as a disclaimer prior to the screening of the film.
However, not all actors are against the government’s move on smoking. Actors such as Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Shabana Azmi, Hema Malini and Rakhi Sawant fully endorse the ban on smoking and are behind the campaign to reduce passive smoking.
With this move by the Indian government to tackle the huge problem of passive smoking, there are many traits of thought that wonder how a large and culturally divided country such as India will deal with effectively deploying this law to the masses – from the rich to the poor, when and if this law will prevail to a complete ban on ‘on screen’ smoking, will Bollywood stars be ‘really’ affected at all by the ban, will the ban evolve to stop scenes chewing tobacco ‘on-screen’ and does a Rs 200 fine really make a huge difference to actors who are paid millions. Therefore, it will be of great interest to see how Anbumani Ramadoss will deal with the silver screen of India not to allowing it to become a smoke screen.