Friday, October 26, 2007

Thankfully Cinema is promoting 'No Smoking'

Anil Gulati
Smoking has become a symbol of elitist behaviour, especially among the college and university students. The role of cinema is crucial in this habit of the new generation as the youth smoke their way to stardom in the campus.

THE HEALTH MINISTER of India would be a happy man with this film. After all, he has been urging film industry not to smoke, at least on screen. Obviously he is right. Films, advertisements and celebrities do have a strong influence. In fact, recognising their power to influence, many developmental and social organisations globally and in India are using them to help promote positive behaviour. If they smoke, they tend to promote smoking as an acceptable behaviour. Fact of the matter is that smoking kills, though silently.

Just by printing pictorial and graphic warnings on the harmful effects of smoking on cigarette packets may not have a significant impact. The need is of more. As per one estimate, tobacco kills 8,00,000 Indians in a year and about four million people the world over. Estimates also tell us that approximately 1,60,000 people develop cancer each year as a result of tobacco consumption. Every year some 4.5 million Indian smokers suffer from angina or heart disease and about 3.9 million people get lung disease. The major concern is for youngsters, who get hooked on to smoking at an early age.

A survey conducted among 2599 college students in Delhi shows that two per cent of the surveyed students smoked their first cigarette before attaining even 10 years of age. The survey, conducted among the students of three colleges in the capital, also revealed that 61 per cent of them smoked for the first time while they were between 16 and 20 years of age. Exposure to smoking activities, easy availability of cigarettes in educational institutions and the message of smoking getting reinforced through films are the major contributors to the problem.

Thankfully, a film titled ‘No Smoking’ will hit the Indian cinema halls on October 29. Anurag Kashyap’s ‘No Smoking’ has John Abraham and Ayesha Takia in the lead roles. The film is supposed to be a surrealistic take on a smoker trying to quit the habit. Even the song tracks in the film are about the mental and physical state of the individual, who is completely dependent on smoking in spite of knowing well about its effects on his health and mind.

The song, ’Jab Bhi Cigarette’ is about the bygone days as the protagonist fills his ’ash tray’ with the remains of his cigarettes. Similarly, song tracks like ’Phoonk De’ and ’Kash Laga’ are centred on the subject of the film. We will have to wait to see how this film does at cinema halls. Whatever be its fate, the effort has to be complimented.

Meanwhile a good news on the same front is that the World Lung Foundation - South Asia (WLF-SA) has also begun work on a two year project to make the North Campus of Delhi University a ‘tobacco free’ area, a positive move that would help reduce smoking. The project needs to be replicated by other educational institutions in India.

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