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WHO Anti-Smoking Campaign to Target Asian Film, Fashion Industries - 2003-05-29

The World Health Organization plans to use this Saturday's "World No Tobacco Day" to call for an end to the film and fashion industries' promotion of hazardous tobacco products. In Asia, movies are a major venue for tobacco advertising.

The WHO is urging filmmakers to stop promoting the use of tobacco products - products that the world body says kill half of all regular users.

A recent WHO study of Indian films, one of the largest motion picture producing markets in Asia, says smoking is frequently depicted onscreen. And smoking is shown as being glamorous, the report says, which is dangerous in a country where almost a quarter of the population uses tobacco.

WHO policy advisor on tobacco issues, Judith Mackay, says that in Asia and elsewhere, on-screen smoking is often part of a deliberate advertising campaign.

She says that such advertising, known as "product placement" is on the rise.

"The product placement in films is getting very much worse, because what is happening is advertising bans are kicking in… all around the world," she explained. "Traditional advertising, whether it be on TV, on radio, on billboards, in magazines - is… disappearing… And therefore, product placement has been a very good way for the tobacco companies to put their products in front of the population."

Ms. Mackay says some in the film industry, such as action star Jackie Chan, are campaigning against showing smoking on-screen.

Despite this and the recent WHO approval for a global anti-tobacco treaty, she says that tobacco use in the movies will likely continue for some time to come.

In Vietnam, meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reports that the government has just banned most smoking scenes from local films. The report cites a few exceptions, however, such as allowing filmmakers to show soldiers sharing cigarettes in time of war.