The Tobacco-free Film Rule under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA)

The Government of India has sought to reduce the prevalence and health harms of tobacco under its national law, the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products ACT (COTPA). The law covers policies including larger graphic health warnings on tobacco products, tobacco-free schools and educational Institutions, prohibition of brand promotion of all tobacco products.

Additionally, to control the promotion of pro-tobacco imagery in films and on television, the Government of India enacted the “Film Rule” under COTPA. The Rules came into effect on October 2, 2012 and are applicable to all Indian as well as foreign Films and TV programs broadcast in India. The Film Rules specify that all those films and TV programsthat have been produced on or after 2nd October 2012 that depict tobacco – the product itself or its use – include the following in the films/programs to obtain certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC):-

  1. Two health harm ‘advertisments’ of 30 seconds each depiting the harms of using tobacco , at the beginning and middle of a film/program
  2. One audio-visual anti-tobacco ‘Disclaimer’ of 20 seconds, at the beginning and middle of film/ program.
  3. Anti-Tobacco ‘Health Warning’ as a prominent static message during the period of display of tobacco products or their use.

Specific requirements pertaining to the implementation of the health warning include:

  1.             The static message should be onscreen, legible and readable.
  2.             The font should be in black color, on white background.

III.            The static message should read as – “Smoking causes cancer” or “Smoking kills” for smoking forms of tobacco use; “Tobacco causes cancer” or “Tobacco kills” for chewing and other smokeless forms of tobacco;or other warnings that may be specified by the Government of India from time to time.

Besides the incorporation of the above-mentioned content into film/programs, a strong editorial justification explaining the necessity of display of tobacco products or its use is required to be provided to CBFC.


Implementation in Film Theaters:

  1. 99% of films with tobacco scenes implemented at least one of all the three requirements of the Film Rule – anti-tobacco health harm advertisements, anti-tobacco disclaimer and health warning. Implementation of each element of the Film Rules was as follows: 97% included anti-tobacco Public Service Announcements (PSAs), 79% films incorporated the Disclaimer, and 86% of the films included the health warning as a static message.
  2. However, only 27% of the films implemented the Film Rules fully and correctly. Some of the inaccuracies found were as follows: –
  • Both PSAs were fully and properly shown in only 52% of films with tobacco scenes: that is,shown in the beginning and during films’ interval and in the same language as that of the film.
  • In 75% of tobacco seen movie, the disclaimer was shown in the same language as the language of the movie.
  • The health warning static message was accurately shown in only 19% of films, that is, placed in black font, on white background at the bottom of the screen, and in the same language as that of the film.
  1. Despite the variable implementation of the Film Rules, exit interviews with audiences indicated positive reactions towards the Film Rule among those who recalled them.
  • Among audiences who recalled at least one aspect of the Film Rule, there was general agreement that the various aspects of the Film Rule were easy to understand and made them stop and think.
  • One in two people who recalled any element of the Film Rule said that it increased their concern about tobacco’s health harms.

One in three tobacco users said that viewing any of the elements of the Film Rule made them more likely to quit.


Implementation on Television:

  1. Overall, implementation of the Film Rule on television was very low. Not one program/film on television implemented all the requirements mandated in the Film Rule. Only 4% implemented at least two of the three requirements of the Film Rule.
  2. Among the components of the Film Rule, implementation was highest for the health warning static message and lowest for the disclaimer. Implementation of specific requirements of the Film Rule was found to be as follows:

o   None of the TV programs with tobacco carried both of the government notified anti-tobacco health harm public service announcements(Child and Dhuan)at the start and in the middle the program as required.5% of programs with tobacco scenes showed one of the two notified PSAs at the start and in the middle of the program. In 3% of programs, the incorrect PSA was shown.

o   The disclaimer was shown in only 1 program with tobacco scenes. The disclaimer shown was in the same language of the programes per Film Rule, but was shown only before the program and not in the middle. Additionally, the disclaimer was shown incompletely and in low resolution.

o   The health warning static message was shown in 65% of TV content with tobacco scenes. The static message was not properly shown in any of these instances. Improper implementation in terms of the language, wording, background and text color and placement on screen were found.

Additionally, 48% of television programs were found to carry unapproved and non-compliant static “warnings.”

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