Advertising is a well-known method of promotion of a product or idea. Various modalities of advertisements are known. Any place an ‘identified’ sponsor pays to deliver their message through a medium is considered advertising.Although mouth-to-mouth promotion is also considered advertisement, money also is quite often spent to create the buzz. The companies ultimately aim at creating a brand franchise for their product through advertisements.

Various modalities for advertisements are known. Tobacco companies also use various methods of advertising for promotion of their product. Having a favorite cigarette advertisement has been observed to be associated with future smoking or likelihood of trying tobacco, as well as with earlier age at smoking initiation.

In view of the important role of advertisement in the promotion of tobacco use, many countries have banned advertisements of tobacco products. However, tobacco companies often circumvent such efforts through trademark diversification by sponsoring various activities or through surrogate advertisements. The literal meaning of ‘Surrogate Advertising’ is duplicating the brand image of one product extensively to promote another product of the same brand.

India had been concerned about the promotional effect of tobacco advertisements. Tobacco advertisements had been banned on electronic media and on Government controlled print media since the 1980s. This was subsequently made stricter through Cable Television Network Act, 1995, to cover direct, as well as indirect advertising of tobacco products. However, tobacco advertisements were permitted in print media till the implementation of the comprehensive legislation on the control of tobacco products.Formulation and promulgation of this legislation took a substantial time and the tobacco companies were possibly gearing themselves to circumvent such ban.

Smokeless tobacco use is quite prevalent in India. It is estimated that 96 million out 184 million tobacco users (52%) of India consumed tobacco in smokeless form. Use of ‘Gutka’ and ‘Pan Masala with Tobacco’ is a common modality of tobacco use, especially among the youth.  The growth of pan masala industry was very slow in the 1970s when only plain and sweet pan masala were introduced. However, this industry saw a sharp growth from the 1980s onwards, after the introduction of pan masala, containing tobacco and gutka, especially in small sachets (which increased their transportability and cost of single purchase). Often people consider all pan masala to be same and tobacco to be an integral part of the concoction. The smokeless tobacco industry of India seems to have taken advantage of this perception over the last few years and have initiated advertisements of plain pan masala. Some commonly observed advertisements included Pan Parag, Goa 1000, Shimla, Rajnigandha, etc. While direct advertisements of all tobacco products vanished after promulgation of the comprehensive legislation for tobacco control from 1st May 2004, the advertisements of various pan masala continued, apparently suggesting their nontobacco nature. In fact, one such product (Pan Parag) had been advertising about its 0% tobacco contents. In the recent past, a Khaini product advertised itself as ‘Chaini Khaini’ in print media and on billboards outside Delhi, but on television, the product was mentioned as ‘Chain Chain’, without even mentioning the nature of the product. In recent times, this television advertisement shows a sachet mentioning it as Chaini Chaini pan masala, but with no major change in the advertisement.

Tobacco control activists have long been criticising these advertisements as indirect tobacco advertisements but had no means to prove it.

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