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Tobacco industry corporate social responsibility activities amid COVID-19 pandemic in India
  1. Amit Yadav1,
  2. Pranay Lal1,
  3. Renu Sharma1,
  4. Ashish Pandey2,
  5. Rana Jagdeep Singh1
  1. 1 Tobacco Control Division, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, New Delhi, Delhi, India
  2. 2 Tobacco Control Division, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amit Yadav, Tobacco Control Division, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, New Delhi, Delhi 110016, India; amit.yadav{at}

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In India, nearly 29% of adults (over 42% of men and 14% of women) aged 15 or above use tobacco daily or occasionally.1 Out of 100 million smokers, nearly 40 million smoke cigarettes. ITC (British American Tobacco’s India affiliate) dominates the Indian-manufactured cigarette market with 77% market share,2 while Godfrey Phillips India (Phillip Morris International’s India affiliate) controls 13% of the market.3 In terms of volume, however, bidi (also beedi, a forest tree leaf hand-rolled indigenous cigarillo using sun-cured flaked tobacco) dominates the smoking landscape. In 2014, it is estimated that nearly 550 billion4 bidis were made by women and children in the poorest parts of India.5

In addition, nearly 200 million adults use smokeless tobacco (SLT).1 SLT is the most widely consumed tobacco product in the country that is homemade, largely unregulated, untaxed and sold locally. About 30% of the SLT market consists of commercially manufactured products, where Dharampal Satyapal Group (DS Group) enjoys a large market share.6

Historically, the Indian tobacco industry has spent large sums in aggressively marketing and advertising its products.7 With the coming into force of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA), however, all forms of direct and indirect tobacco advertising were prohibited in India.8 In particular, section 5, clause 3, subclause (b) of COTPA prescribed that:

No person, shall, under a contract or otherwise promote or agree to promote the use or consumption of…(b) any trade mark or brand name of cigarettes or any other tobacco product in exchange for a sponsorship, gift, prize or scholarship given or agreed to be given by another person.8

Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)9 considers corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities to be a form of tobacco advertising and recommends its …

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  • Contributors AY and PL had the idea for this communication. AY and PL drafted the manuscript. AY and RS collated the data. AP and RJS critically reviewed different versions of the manuscript. AY and PL contributed to the revisions and final manuscript in its present form.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.