Guwahati: Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam has urged the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India to regulate use of tobacco products on OTT platform to save our young generation from tobacco addiction.
In a letter written to Health Minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, the Forum mentioned that COTPA Rules have been notified to regulate depiction of tobacco imagery in Films and TV Programmes. Though, the COTPA Rules are fairly well implemented by cinema theatre owners and broadcasters of television programmes, however they are not applicable to the films/series that are shown/streamed on Over the Top (OTT) platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney, Hotstar, ZEE5, Voot, ALTBalaji, MXplayer etc.
As per the study published “Tobacco imagery in on-demand streaming content popular among adolescents and young adults in India: implications for global tobacco control”, there is rampant depiction of tobacco use in series on OTT platforms and most were rated for viewers below 18 years, thus targeting youth and children.
Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, Secretary, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam says according to Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2019, nearly one-fifth of the students aged 13-15 have used tobacco in some form. Prevalence of tobacco use among youth is still very alarming despite government tobacco control programs and laws like COTPA 2003 which bars all kinds of advertisements of tobacco products. To save youth from the menace of tobacco, India must close the regulatory gap in OTT media and ideally extend its film rule to OTT with effective enforcement without further delay.
Tobacco advertising has seen a rapid surge in the recent years attributed to the introduction of OTT platforms which has seen expeditious growth in India. Over the years OTT has become more popular among youth, particularly among children.
India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million or 28.6% of all adults in India) in the world – of these at least 1.3 million die every year from tobacco related diseases. One million deaths are due to smoking, with over 200,000 due to second-hand smoke exposure, and over 35,000 are due to smokeless tobacco use. Nearly 27% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco usage.