India: Mandatory anti-tobacco warnings to feature on over-the-top platforms such as Netflix

Srishti Nawani and Sonu Goel        

India has taken a ground-breaking step in public health by becoming the first country to mandate anti-tobacco warnings and disclaimers on over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. OTT platforms are digital services delivering multimedia content over the internet, bypassing traditional broadcasting avenues. The ruling means that the publishers of online content which displays tobacco products or use will have to display 30 second anti-tobacco messages at the beginning and in the middle of the content. This pioneering move in India aligns with the country’s commitment to curbing tobacco’s influence on digital platforms and protecting its population’s health.

Concerns over normalising and glamorising smoking, especially among youth, have grown due to tobacco imagery on media platforms, including OTT services. This normalisation contributes to preventable diseases and premature deaths linked to tobacco use in India with studies showing that media exposure to tobacco imagery affects attitudes and behaviours.

Vigilant monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are essential. Regular audits should confirm compliance with regulations. Non-compliance must result in appropriate penalties to deter violations and ensure accountability.

Supporting research initiatives to evaluate the impact of anti-tobacco warnings on OTT platforms is vital. Such research offers insights into the warnings’ effectiveness in altering smoking-related attitudes and behaviours, allowing for necessary adjustments.

India’s innovative decision to enforce anti-tobacco warnings and disclaimers on OTT platforms represents a significant step toward safeguarding public health and counteracting tobacco imagery’s influence in the digital domain. By prioritizing citizens’ well-being over commercial interests, the government demonstrates its commitment to establishing a tobacco-free society and raising awareness about tobacco’s harms.

Dr Srishti Nawani is a Masters in Public Health student at the Department of Community Medicine & School of Public Health at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India.

Dr (Prof) Sonu Goel is Professor of Health Management, at the Department of Community Medicine & School of Public Health at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India.

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