Mumbai, May 30 (IANS) Does smoking on screen harm youth? Some feel depicting actors smoking in films and TV shows can affect young, impressionable minds, but others do not agree with this.
"Youth consider celebrities as role models and when they see actors smoking on the screen, it affects them more. If a youth does not start smoking before the age of 22, he doesn't get into it," Anita Peter, director of the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), told IANS.
A statutory warning on a cigarette pack or running a statutory warning during smoking scenes in films is not enough, says Karan Malhotra, director of "Agneepath".
"Just by putting a sticker of 'Smoking Kills' on a product is not good enough. Besides, I think it's futile (to put a statutory warning). It is not required. It will not do anything good or bad for a smoker. It just doesn't make any sense," Malhotra told IANS.
Tobacco use is estimated to have caused nearly 120,000 deaths across India in 2010, according to research carried out by the Toronto-based Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR) in partnership with Mumbai's Tata Memorial Hospital.
If psychiatrist Samir Parikh is to be believed, smoking on screen can affect young minds.
"It is a statistically established fact that observational learning plays a very important role in the growing up years of children. So there are no two ways that smoking on screen influences children to try it," said Parikh, director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.
"If they hero-worship an actor and if the actor is shown smoking, it increases the chances that youngsters will do the same. The entertainment industry needs to impose self-censorship about what to show and what not to show.
"They can reduce the number of smoking scenes unless it is very essential to show it. And on their part, they should, without the pressure of any outside body, spread awareness about the negative effects of activities like smoking," he added.
Filmmaker Sriram Raghavan agrees that "smoking is bad" in real life but doesn't support the idea of banning it in movies.
"In movies, it is fine. This is what I feel. I am not for a ban on smoking scenes in films. It depends on the character. I won't make a character smoke a cigarette just because it looks cool," said the director, known for films like "Johnny Gaddar" and "Karthik Calling Karthik".
Musician Loy Mendonsa of composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy understands "it is difficult to get off tobacco once you are used to it and it's a good thing to be healthy" but dismisses the argument that Bollywood motivates youngsters to smoke.
"I don't think people follow something just because someone is doing it in movies. If you see Superman running in front of a train or a bus in a film, logically, you will not follow him. There might be rare cases, but generally it doesn't happen. If someone does it, it's very stupid," he said.
In reel or real life, smoking is not good in any form and actor Eesha Koppikar vehemently opposes tobacco use.
"Consumption of tobacco in any form is one of the worst things that a person can indulge in. The sad part being that despite knowing its ill effects, people still smoke. I urge all youngsters to kick the death stick and live a healthy and long life. And for those who think smoking is cool, it's anything but that," she said.
Tobacco is one of the worst kinds of addiction, feels actor Ashmit Patel and adds that it should "be in the list of scheduled drugs".
"I support an anti-tobacco NGO called Salaam Bombay Foundation and even ran a marathon for them this year," said Ashmit, who has smoked on screen, but says he will always make sure his characters never glorify smoking.
(Anjuri Nayar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)