The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tobacco funds heat on Centre

New Delhi, Feb. 21: The World Health Organisation today urged the Centre to bar tobacco companies from sponsoring events, saying tobacco causes more deaths every year than HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis put together.

The demand followed the findings of a WHO-sponsored study by Ambika Srivastav. The study has concluded that glamorisation of tobacco consumption was encouraging adolescents and youths to take up smoking.

Addressing a press conference here today, Srivastav said: “We are going to ask the censor board to revise its rating guidelines. Any film that portrays excessive smoking should be rated ‘A’ instead of ‘U’.” She said the censor board should also consider issuing certificates to films to state that there have been no payoffs with any tobacco company.

During her research, Srivastav had analysed 440 movies, including Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films, and interacted with eight groups of adolescents and youths in the 16-18 year age group.

“We interacted with a total of 31 Bollywood industry professionals, including Amitabh Bachchan, who said he has not been portrayed smoking in any Hindi film after the 1980s,” she said.

The health organisation has said it will put pressure on the Centre to pass the pending Bill against tobacco. It has already been introduced in the Lok Sabha and is awaiting passage in the Rajya Sabha. “We hope it will be passed in this session of Parliament,” a representative of the organisation said.

However, functionaries of the Voluntary Health Association of India expressed apprehension that the powerful tobacco lobby will do everything in its power to scuttle the Bill. After being introduced in the Lok Sabha, the Bill was sent back to a parliamentary standing committee, which summoned a cross-section of the people for their views.

Trade unions are also opposed to the Bill on the ground that it will strip crores of tobacco growers of their livelihood.

WHO assurance

WHO dismissed on Thursday tobacco industry’s fears that an anti-smoking pact would prompt job losses and said its figures supported the argument for immediate controls, reports Reuters from Geneva.

In a study conducted with the World Bank, the health agency said that even if tobacco use dropped by 1 per cent per capita per year, population and income growth would actually lead to an increase in demand over the next 10-25 years.

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