Chorus Grows for Regulating OTT Platforms Over Tobacco Imagery in Web-based Streaming Shows

 - Sakshi Post

After the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act (COTPA) 2003, tobacco products, especially cigarettes, started losing the market. But through OTT platforms, tobacco companies have once again started trying to increase their penetration.

New Delhi: Concerns have been raised over the lack of disclaimer or warning labels on smoking scenes on the Over The top (OTT) platforms’ web series. The Union Health Ministry has been requested to regulate the OTT content  and protect young people from being addicted to tobacco products. 

Recently, Jagran News assessed the use of tobacco imagery on shows relayed on various web-based OTT platforms in the country. The findings of the study concluded that the online content does not display any disclaimer or warning related to smoking, drinking and even consumption of drugs. It also found that even school students were being shown smoking and intoxicating indiscriminately on several online streaming platforms. 

Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 and the Cinematograph Act, 1952 regulate the depiction of tobacco imagery in films and television programs. These rules are being implemented by theatre owners and broadcasters of Television programmed, however, OTT platforms are flouting these rules. 

Earlier, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) conducted a study on smoking scenes on web-based streaming platforms. Dr Monika Arora, Vice President and Professor at PHFI says, “We studied tobacco imagery in 188 episodes of the ten most popular series among 15 to 24-year-old Indian youth on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Our findings indicate that many shows had tobacco depicting imagery in it. None of the shows were compliant with tobacco-free film and TV rules under COTPA, 2003.”

It may be noted here that violation of COPTA regulation attracts a jail term of up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to Rs 5,000. 

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