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Assessment of tobacco imagery and compliance with tobacco-free rules in popular Indian films
  1. Muralidhar M Kulkarni1,
  2. Veena Ganesh Kamath1,
  3. Jo Cranwell2,
  4. John Britton3,
  5. Gaurang P Nazar4,
  6. Monika Arora4,5,
  7. Kirthinath Ballal1,
  8. Asha Kamath6
  1. 1 Community Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Udupi, Karnataka, India
  2. 2 Tobacco Control Research Group, Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  3. 3 UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  4. 4 HRIDAY, Delhi, India
  5. 5 Health Promotion and Tobacco Control, Public Health Foundation of India, Delhi, India
  6. 6 Department of Statistics, Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Udupi, Karnataka, India
  1. Correspondence to Professor John Britton, Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK; j.britton{at}


Background Exposure to smoking in films causes smoking uptake among adolescents. Investigation of the extent to which tobacco imagery appears, or tobacco control laws are complied with in Indian films is limited, and especially so for films in regional languages. This study presents an analysis of tobacco content and compliance with tobacco control laws in popular films in several languages from the Karnataka state of India.

Methods We used 5 min interval coding to measure actual tobacco use, implied tobacco use, tobacco paraphernalia and tobacco branding in the top 10 films identified from national box office ratings and regional distributor reports in Karnataka in 2015 and 2016. We also assessed compliance with tobacco-free film rules in India.

Findings A total of 47 films, in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Tulu languages were coded. Any tobacco imagery was observed in 72% of films, and actual tobacco use in 50%. Tobacco imagery was equally prevalent in films classified as suitable for universal viewing (U category) or at age 12 or more (U/A category) films; and significantly more common in films made in regional than national language (Hindi). None of the films were fully compliant with legal requirements on health spots, audiovisual disclaimers and health warnings.

Conclusions Tobacco content was common in films classified as suitable for viewing by children, more among regional than national languages. Compliance with tobacco control laws was low. Stricter enforcement of tobacco-free film rules will protect children and adolescents from exposure to tobacco use on screen.

  • media
  • low/middle income country
  • public policy

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. The author name Jo Cranwell was previously included incorrectly as Joanne Cranwell.

  • Contributors JB and MMK conceptualised the study. The coding sheet was developed by JC and GPN. Coding analysis was done by AK, JC and GPN. Interpretation of data and drafting the manuscript was done by MMK, VGK, KB and MA. Final approval of the version was read and approved by all authors.

  • Funding This study was funded by Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom (MR/P008933/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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