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New Delhi, April 18: Bolstered by the passage of the anti-tobacco Bill in the Rajya Sabha, the Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control has demanded stringent rules to stop surrogate advertisement of tobacco products.

“If the rules are even a bit lax, the companies will find a way of pushing through the brand name which is associated with tobacco products,” Shobha John of the forum told a news conference today.

The anti-tobacco Bill prohibits all forms of direct and indirect tobacco advertising.

Although there is also a ban on advertising of liquor, companies continue to advertise popular alcohol brand names. Instead of whisky, they advertise for apple juice, using the brand name associated with a particular whisky.

“We have to guard against this danger of surrogate advertisements,” said John.

The advocacy forum is confident that strictly enforcing a ban on advertisement of tobacco products will also reduce the incidence of smoking. “Having a law is only the first step. After this we have to formulate the guidelines that are crucial for the efficacy of the Bill,” John added.

A World Bank study conducted in 102 countries shows that countries that have imposed a comprehensive ban on all forms of advertising have registered steeper declines in tobacco consumption.

“Experiences from home and abroad show that relinquishing a particular brand or a product does not affect the revenues of this multi-product industry, as alternate products replace them,” the forum said.

In India, deaths caused by tobacco are expected to rise from 1.4 per cent of all deaths in 1990 to 13.3 per cent in 2020. The World Health Organisation says according to this prediction, India will have the highest rate of rise in tobacco-related deaths as compared to other countries during this period.

A study conducted by Hriday, a non-government organisation working with school students, says that over 22 per cent of them think that boys and girls who smoke or chew tobacco look more attractive and have more friends.

The forum, therefore, believes that there will have to be a mobilisation of the community and a sustained campaign for the Bill to become effective.

“The network of NGOs across the country will have to start interacting with state governments and the people,” said Monika Arora, programme coordinator of Hriday.

According to WHO, tobacco kills 560 people every hour, 13,400 people per day and 4.9 million people every year.

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