Celebs endorse pan masala despite ASCI's bitter stance against surrogate ads

While Amitabh Bachchan ending his association with Kamla Pasand may set a new precedent in responsible advertising, ASCI has always been clear about keeping celebs away from pan masala ads

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Oct 12, 2021 12:31 PM  | 3 min read
kamla pasand

Film celebrities endorsing pan masala brands are once again under public scrutiny with people continuously calling out both the brands and the brand ambassadors for promoting unhealthy products among millions of youths and fans.

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan backed off from a brand association on Monday only after a prolonged uproar on social media for his alleged insensitivity towards Indian youth. Although Big B claimed that he didn't know it was a case of surrogate advertising while filming the ad.

Many top actors endorse Pan Masala

Despite a stand taken by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) against surrogate advertising, many Indian celebs routinely feature in pan masala ads. Ranveer Singh, Ajay Devgn to Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Hrithik Roshan have represented brands like Vimal, Signature and Pan Bahar in the past.

IPL sponsors

Kamla Pasand Pan Masala brand is currently the title sponsor of one of the biggest reality shows; Vimal Pan Masala is the streaming partner of IPL. Through IPL, advertisers reach crores of viewers across India. 

This trend continues even as the law of the land prohibits advertising of all such products that are injurious to health since 2003. Pan Masala also contains tobacco, which raises the risk of cancer of the oesophagus, mouth and throat, and pancreas.

What does the law say?

“No person engaged in or purported to be engaged in the production, supply or distribution of cigarettes or any other tobacco products shall advertise and no person having control over a medium shall cause to be advertised cigarettes or any other tobacco products through that medium and no person shall take part in any advertisement which directly or indirectly suggests or promotes the use or consumption of cigarettes or any other tobacco products,” says the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003 prohibiting the advertisements of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India.

The ASCI had clarified in 2016 about its reservations against using celebrities in pan masala ads and there were discussions on initiating actions against such brands. 

In 2019, the Indian army too had objected to a few ads featuring men in uniform using pan masala. Yet, the trend continues with the advertising companies making surrogate ads by roping in the biggest of the stars to promote pan masala brands. 

ASCI's view

When asked how the ASCI planned to tackle the surrogate advertising of such products by celebs, Manisha Kapoor, Secretary-General of ASCI, said, “By law, tobacco advertising is not allowed. The COPTA prohibits advertisement of, and to provide for the regulation of trade and commerce in, and production, supply and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India.”

She added, “The ASCI code also has clear guidelines in place for advertising of brand extensions of products whose advertising is prohibited by law. ASCI’s guidelines also state that celebrities should not participate in advertisements of products which by law require a health warning in their ads or packaging.”

The domestic pan masala and gutka industry is pegged at around Rs 45,500 crore growing annually at around 9%, according to IMARC. Pan masala with tobacco currently represents the most popular type with the largest market share followed by plain pan masala and flavoured pan masala. 

Written with inputs from Kanchan Srivastava and Mansi Sharma.

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