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India: PM’s bravery awards surrender
  1. David Simpson

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    It must have been humiliating enough for the boss of Godfrey Phillips, Indian subsidiary of Philip Morris and makers of Red & White cigarettes, to be forced to say that the company’s Red & White Bravery Awards had “nothing to do with our products” (see Tobacco Control 2003;12:120), but worse was to come. In July, the company was forced to tell the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it would be dropping the name of the cigarette brand from its awards scheme.

    The intriguingly named Burning Brain Society, a voluntary civil society organisation, had filed public interest litigation to try to stop one of the world’s most inappropriate forms of tobacco promotion (see also Tobacco Control 2003;12:120). It also sought to stop other indirect tobacco advertising, and force the recalcitrant state government of Haryana to implement India’s tobacco control legislation.

    Interestingly, while the state government denied authorising any of its officials to attend the functions of any tobacco company, the involvement of its top brass at the Red & White awards ceremonies—one of the cleverest aspects of the promotion—was widely publicised in the press, and expressly admitted by the tobacco company in its written statement to court. Beside this extraordinary denial, the government’s failure to file the 90 word legal notification necessary to enforce the tobacco control law seems hardly worthy of mention. Busy officials in every country are overburdened with work, after all. However, in 2005 the home secretary, principal secretary, and other senior officials found time to participate in tobacco sponsored functions, just as the chain smoking chief secretary had been a special guest of honour at the awards ceremony the previous year.

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    Publicity like this in India should be prevented in future years after cigarette makers Godfrey Phillips, a subsidiary of Philip Morris, told a court it would stop using the name of its Red & White cigarette brand, also pictured, in association with its bravery awards scheme.

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