Govt working on cola ad ban

New Delhi, Sept 28 | Updated: Sep 29 2006, 05:30am hrs
The health ministry has initiated discussions to frame guidelines for banning soft drinks advertisements, especially in the electronic media. The move comes despite the ministrys clean chit to cola companies on the pesticide controversy.

At present, Coca-Cola and Pepsi spend about Rs 150 crore a year on television commercials. The figure will be much higher if print ads and sponsorships are taken into account.

Information and broadcasting ministry officials, however, said enforcing a ban would require changes to the advertising code for television. At present, only liquor and tobacco products are banned from being advertised.

The discussions are at an initial stage but we want to regulate the advertisement of soft drinks. Currently, the deliberations are restricted to soft drinks. We may add a few more harmful products, a health ministry official told FE. But he noted it was too complex an exercise and involved several ministries.

To ban ads, the health ministry needs the concurrence of the I&B ministry. In the past, health minister Anbumani Ramadoss had tried to ban smoking in films but his proposal could not pass muster of the I&B ministry, which said this was unfeasible.

The health ministry officials said the Centre was not against the sale of such products but wanted the industry to act more responsibly. The electronic media is under focus first because of its impact on the youth. Records show regulating ads results in sales drop, an official said.

In the West, cola companies have agreed to stringent self-regulation. They dont promote products in print or TV, specifically targeted at children.