SWIMMI SHRIVASTAVA
[email protected]
New Delhi, 12 July
The norms set by the government on advertising tobacco products are being openly flouted by tobacco retailers, according to a survey conducted by an NGO, Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), in June.
 The survey, which covered around 50 to 55 retail outlets in various locations in Delhi, found the size of the advertising boards is much larger than the prescribed size which is 60 centimetres by 45 centimetres. Also, there is no health warning on the boards, the boards are back lit or illuminated, the display boards instead of listing the type of tobacco products available, in violation of the rules, display brand pack shots, brand names of the tobacco product and promotional message and pictures and the monthly rental of Rs 1000-5000 being given to retailers by the tobacco companies for display of the advertisements.
 Section 5 (3) of  the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA) prohibits promotion of brand names and trademarks of any tobacco product. The Act prohibits all forms of direct or indirect advertisement of tobacco products.
Shopkeepers can only display a board which should be 45 x 60 cm and not display the name of any tobacco brand. They can display the type of tobacco products like cigarette or khaini available at the shop but not carry any photographs of the brands. Also, 25 per cent of the board should carry a health warning against tobacco consumption. The board should not be illuminated and have a white background with the text in black.
 "Despite the regulations, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is rampant and youth-centric. There is an urgent need to strengthen the existing provisions of COTPA and a multi-sectoral and inter-governmental synergy to effectively implement a complete ban," said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, VHAI.
  According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the tobacco industry spends billions annually in advertising, promotion and sponsorship. In India, the tobacco industry usually adopts ‘surrogate advertising’ in which they promote other products to drill the brand name into the consumer.