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India makes tobacco warnings mandatory for streaming sites

India makes tobacco warnings mandatory for streaming sites
A man smokes next to a cigarette advertisement hung on a tree at a marketplace in New Delhi, India on May 3, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

BENGALURU/NEW DELHI - India unveiled guidelines on Wednesday (May 31) requiring streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to display prominent warnings about smoking and other forms of tobacco use while airing shows with such scenes.

While film and television certification bodies already moderate public content in India, its laws have few provisions to censor content on popular online platforms.

The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Amendment Rules, 2023 made it mandatory for such platforms to display "anti-tobacco health spots" of at least 30 seconds each at the start and middle of a programme, a notice from the health ministry showed.

The new rules also made it compulsory for the platforms to display an anti-tobacco health warning as a "static message" at the bottom of the screen while displaying tobacco products on screen. It also mandated audio-visual disclaimers about the ill-effects of tobacco use.

The stringent laws come after a survey by the World Health Organisation found that nearly 267 million Indians of age 15 and above consume tobacco.

"India's new regulations will ensure that streaming services are not the next vehicle for Big Tobacco's aggressive targeting of Indian youth," said Yolonda Richardson, an executive from non-profit group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The amendment further states that the federal government will take suo moto action against streaming sites if they fail to adhere to the new rules.

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and trade group Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), which represents the interests of several streaming websites, did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.

The tough rules come years after court cases and complaints filed to the police alleged that some content on streaming platforms was obscene or insulted religious sentiment.

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