The Delhi government on Saturday asked Philip Morris International Inc and other tobacco companies to remove all advertisements from tobacco shops in the national capital warning them of legal action if the order is not followed. The order was sent by Delhi state’s chief tobacco control officer S. K. Arora after it was reported that the company was promoting Marlboro cigarettes, the world’s best-selling brand, by advertising them at tobacco shops and distributing free cigarette samples. According to the Delhi government, this was against the law.
According to a report by Reuters, the Indian officials have always maintained the fact that tobacco advertising using brand names or promotional slogans is illegal under the country’s Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act and its accompanying rules. However, Philip Morris and India’s leading cigarette maker ITC Ltd has maintained that they comply with regulations and that the law allows advertising inside a kiosk.
While addressing the media, Arora said he was informed by the federal health ministry that all brand advertisements, irrespective of where they were placed, were not allowed in the country. The tobacco companies in Delhi have continued to advertise in the national capital despite repetitive warnings by the government. Arora also told Reuters he “will investigate and conduct raids” to check on the distribution of free cigarettes at social events. “If violations are found, action as per law will be taken,” he added.
The national tobacco control law was enacted in 2003 in India and since then many rules have been added to it to strengthen the law. However, according to the government, the companies still get away with violations because law enforcement is weak. The federal health ministry on Friday had said it planned to seek an explanation from Philip Morris and other tobacco companies about their marketing practices.