The Union Health Ministry announced the updated regulations under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2004, on World No Tobacco Day, making it mandatory for streaming platforms to carry anti-tobacco warnings similar to those present in theatrically released films and television shows.
The notification states that the beginning and middle of any online curated content that depicts tobacco products or their use must include anti-tobacco health advertisements lasting at least 30 seconds each.
Several well-known streaming services are available today, including Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, Sony Liv, Zee5, and Discovery+.
When tobacco goods or their usage are shown during the broadcast, they must additionally display an anti-tobacco health warning as a large static statement at the bottom of the screen.
The source added that a minimum 20-second audio-visual notice on the harmful effects of tobacco usage will also need to be shown at the beginning and halfway of the broadcast.
The notification said that the anti-tobacco health warning statement required by sub-rule (1)’s clause(b) “shall be legible and readable, with font in black colour on white background and with the warnings “Tobacco causes cancer” or “Tobacco kills”.”
Additionally, the audio-visual disclaimers, health commercials, and anti-tobacco warning messages must utilise the same language as the online curated material.
The use of tobacco products in promotional materials and the presentation of tobacco products in online curated content are also prohibited. Neither are the brands of cigarettes or other tobacco products, nor any other forms of tobacco product placement.
According to a senior ministry official, the decision was taken following discussions with the Information and Broadcasting ministry and other stakeholders. “If the publisher of online curated content fails to comply with the provisions of sub-rules (1) to (5), an inter ministerial committee consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, shall take action suo motu or on a complaint, and after identifying the publisher of online curated content, issue notice giving reasonable opportunity to explain such failure and make appropriate modification in the content,” the notification said.
The term “online curated content” refers to any curated collection of audio-visual content, excluding news and current affairs programming, that is owned by, licenced to, or contracted to be transmitted by a publisher of online curated content and made available on demand, including but not limited to through subscription, over the internet or computer networks. This content includes films, television shows, serials, and other similar types of content.