Researchers from Vital Strategies and Imperial College, London have found that people, including children are exposed to a high and frequent volume of tobacco, alcohol and branded fast-food product placement, while watching Bollywood films.
The study was published in scientific journal PLOS One. Of the 300 films analysed from the time period 1994-2013, 93 per cent of the films had at least one occurrence of alcohol, 70 per cent had at least one occurrence of tobacco and 21 per cent films had at least one occurrence of branded fast food. Tobacco and alcohol occurrences were more common in films rated for older audiences (A rated films) whereas fast-food depiction was prominent in movies targeted for all audiences (U and U/A rated films).
On an average, tobacco products or usage was depicted four times per film, alcohol was shown or used seven times per film and branded fast food was shown or used 0.4 time per film. Although depiction of tobacco in these films fell during the 20-year period of analysis, the placement of alcohol and branded fast food products significantly increased. The researchers theorise that the downward trend in tobacco promotion from the year 2004 could be attributed to the regulations related to tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) and WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC).
“Our study suggests that Bollywood films are contributing to promoting unhealthy behaviours in their audience, particularly children,” said Dr. Nandita Murukutla, Vice President, Global Policy and Research, Policy, Advocacy and Communication, Vital Strategies.
“We hope that this study offers evidence and support to reduce the marketing of these products in films given the known health problems they cause, including obesity, heart disease and cancer.”
While research in other parts of the world has shown an association with these products being used in films and audience members also initiating use, the extent of such imagery in Bollywood cinema has been less clear.
Professor Christopher Millett, Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit, Imperial College, London, said, “The rise in the number of noncommunicable diseases across the globe is linked with consumption of tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed foods. Marketing strategies that promote the consumption of these products should be strictly regulated using the broad public health perspective with an aim to reduce the burden of death and disease.”
According to the researchers, their analysis provides evidence for the adoption of strong policy measures to protect the health of movie-watching audiences, including:
Monitoring product placement of unhealthy commodities and prohibit funded product placement continuously on all mediums
Reviewing certifications of films based on product placement of unhealthy products. ‘A’ ratings to be considered for such instances
Removing government subsidies in case of any depiction of unhealthy commodities or violation that promotes unhealthy commodities
Reaffirming WHO FCTC Article 13 for tobacco and reaffirm the spirit of this article in placing restrictions on the marketing of alcohol and unhealthy foods.