Advertisements on anti-smoking and anti-tobacco shown before and during movies in the cinema and on television have been widely criticised by many in the filming fraternity and others for some time for showing audiences “something unpalatable when they’ve paid money to be entertained”. The recent Koffee with Karan episode (a popular TV show with director Karan Johar interviewing TV celebrities) has received some online media attention after he asked Indian actor Aamir Khan’s wife Kiran Rao about the efficacy of anti-tobacco advertisements. Kiran Rao replied that the she didn’t know a single person who had quit because of the ads. ”. Woody Allen refused to let his movie Blue Jasmine release in India because he didn’t care for the ads while directors Ram Gopal Varma and Anurag Kashyap have also spoken out against the ads. Refusing to play those ads before his soon-to-be released movie Ugly he said: ‘I don’t want my audience to get distracted and my film is not an advertisement hoarding for social service messages. And I as a filmmaker will not take on the charitable stance of ridding society of all its ills. And the health ministry can’t do both: take revenue from the tobacco industry and make it my responsibility to educate people about why they should avoid tobacco. I take my films seriously.’
health.india.com started an online survey to ask readers the following questions three simple questions: Have you seen the ads?; What do did you think of the ads?; Do you know any single person who has quit tobacco or changed their mind about tobacco after watching the ads?The survey results show that an overwhelming 95% having at least seen the ads. When asked what they thought of the ads – 58% thought that they were informative and necessary, 13% thought that the ads were informativebut gruesome, 12% thought it was a waste of time and a measly 6% had other opinions. A significant 42% of the respondents said that they knew someone who had quit after watching the ads, while 39% claimed to not know anyone who was inspired to quit after watching the ads.
If we are to go with this survey’s results then the ads have definitely been able to create an awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco. If the goal of the health ministry was to inform and educate people using tools such as media and entertainment to reach a wider audience, they have been successful.