Tobacco report criticizes Indian films

Tobacco report criticizes Indian films

As final negotiations are under way on a landmark global treaty to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a report sharply criticizing India's film industry for glamorizing smoking as the "cool" thing to do.

India's film industry, primarily based in Mumbai and known as "Bollywood," is the world's largest, producing more than 900 films every year and influencing movie-goers as far-flung as Africa and the Middle East. In India alone, an estimated 15 million people see nationally produced movies every day.

WHO's study, "Bollywood: Victim or Ally?" examines 400 recent Indian films and reveals that 80 per cent show some form of tobacco use. Around 76 per cent of the top-rated films portray smoking as "cool." As part of the study, 31 industry professionals were interviewed to find out why filmmakers decide to include tobacco in scenes and how prevalent tobacco brand placement is in Indian films.

The launch of WHO's study, as well as the kick-off for the 2003 World No Tobacco Day campaign today at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, coincide with the final round of negotiations for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Those discussions, which began yesterday and will run through 28 February, aim to finalize the ground-breaking agreement on international tobacco regulations, particularly curbing the advertising, promotion, sales and smuggling of tobacco products.

Meanwhile, the international debate over tobacco regulations and the flurry of attention focused on that industry will intensify next week when the International Labour Organization (ILO) convenes the first-ever meeting to discuss the future of perhaps 100 million workers whose jobs are threatened as the tobacco sector reels from the effects of anti-smoking campaigns and widespread corporate mega-mergers.

The ILO's Tripartite Meeting on the Future of Employment in the Tobacco Sector, set to run 24 to 28 February, brings together workers, employers and governments to discuss what lies ahead for millions of non-unionized, informal sector labourers - particularly impoverished women and children - who depend in some way on the production, manufacture and distribution of tobacco and tobacco products for their livelihoods.

At the centre of the discussions will be the just-released ILO study, "Employment trends in the tobacco sector: Challenges and prospects." That report notes that jobs in the tobacco industry in industrialized countries and in some developing countries have either been stagnating or declining, although tobacco production, especially cigarettes, has been increasing due to higher demand worldwide supported by state-of-the-art technology.

"Tobacco has never been more controversial than it is today," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, said, noting that for many who work in the sector, declining employment is a burning workplace and social issue. That is especially the case among the most vulnerable, such as migrants, women and children, ethnic minorities and castes or tribes who are not in a position to negotiate wages or working conditions. "Their future must also be considered," he said.


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