Why are pan masala ads landing celebrities in legal trouble?
The Advertising Standards Council of India prohibits celebrities to participate in advertisements of products that are detrimental to people's health. However, celebrities still promote the consumption of gutkha and tobacco through several advertisements.
In India, tobacco is an incredible money-making business. Pan Masala is an Indian smokeless tobacco product that is both addictive and carcinogenic. The government, anti-tobacco crusaders, and civil society are increasingly scrutinizing both the smoking and smokeless groups of the industry. To get around the legislation and health-conscious detractors, both groups have turned to subtle and deceitful methods of surrogate advertising.
Pan Masala companies use the brand extension method, whereby a company launches different products with a common brand name, to contravene the law. They sell tobacco and non-tobacco items, such as mouth fresheners, under the same brand name. In this way, they can piggyback on products that consumers trust. They also use celebrity branding to generate buzz around the harmful products and entice more customers. Celebrities can help businesses carve out a distinct niche in the market, impact good brand perceptions and influence buying decisions.
Prominent Bollywood actors like Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, and Ranveer Singh faced the brunt of surrogate advertising. Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, and Shah Rukh Khan endorsed Vimal pan masala advertisements. Kumar terminated his contract with the brand soon after facing severe online backlash. Devgn, on the other hand, justified his actions by saying that he was merely promoting 'elaichi' and that regulated products shouldn't be marketed in the first place.
Bachchan and Singh tarnished their reputation by promoting the chewing tobacco brand "Kamla Pasand." On his 79th birthday, Bachchan announced that he resigned as the brand ambassador for "Kamla Pasand." The veteran actor also refunded the amount he charged for the campaign. Ranveer Singh and Shahrukh Khan are yet to release any statement regarding this matter.
The Advertising Standards Council of India prohibits celebrities to participate in advertisements of products that are detrimental to people's health. However, celebrities still promote the consumption of gutkha and tobacco through several advertisements. Tamanna Hashmi, a social activist, filed a plea in Bihar court under sections 467, 468, 439, and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. She stated that these celebrities misused their status and publicity reach to encourage people to take noxious drugs. The court hearing is scheduled for May 27, 2022.
A few years back, the former Bond actor Pierce Brosnan also got fortuitously involved with the company, Ashok & Co for promoting Pan Bahar in an ad. He later explained that he was led to believe that it is simply a mouth freshener company. Although he strictly barred the use of his image or fame to promote Pan Bahar, the ad still continued to be aired widely across the nation.