Pan Bahar: Will Pierce Brosnan Be Made An Example?
Does this happen only in India?
Not sure, after the fiasco of the Pan Masala ad featuring an international celebrity like Pierce Brosnan promoting Pan Masala under the impression that it was a breath freshener/tooth whitener.
It takes a deal of character and conviction to say after being taken for a ride by an Indian company that "he has the greatest love and affection for India and its people".
The realisation that he had contributed his image to promote a product that carried carcinogenic contents must have been so much more painful to a person who lost his first wife and daughter to cancer.
Will our dynamic Minister for Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan set an example by enforcing the strict penalties under the Consumer Protection Act for misleading advertisements that he had been promising? In one of the latest missives the ministry says that it could take action, including jail against the brand ambassadors if they were found endorsing products that were misleading.
In this case the former James Bond is himself admitting that his contract had mentioned that he was promoting a breath freshener/tooth whitener. Should he have not checked the veracity of their claims?
Now who will be faulted?Is it the company, for giving misleading information or the brand ambassador for not doing his own research to find out what he was endorsing and promoting?
Will Paswan set an example by taking a bold stand that could boost the image of the NDA as a bold and honest government?Chances of his taking a stand are near zero for two very basic reasons.
One, this involves a foreign citizen and the rules of this country do not apply to them.Secondly, the pan masala lobby actually the tobacco lobby is very strong in this country. Look at the number of film awards functions and other programs they sponsor, they have politicians eating out of their hands.
Even though the UP assembly has passed a resolution banning Pan Masala I had seen a huge banner proclaiming 'The city of Pan Masala welcomes you' right outside the railway station when I was posted there. I am not sure whether that board is still there but if does tell us about the priorities of the state which is going to polls very soon.
A few years back when the Health Ministry imposed restrictions on the sale of Pan Masala in the country the pan masala lobby came with full page advertisements in national newspapers alleging that they were being victimised.
Their logic was that that there was no ban on selling cigarettes but pan masala, which was only promoting chewing tobacco was being banned?They cited statistics to prove that chewing tobacco did not cause deaths, only smoking beedis and cigarettes did.
This was again a misinformation campaign because statistics for deaths due to chewing tobacco were not available.
Doctors and specialists who are dealing with the subject are very categorical.
One of them is Dr.K.K.Aggarwal, Head of the Heart Care Foundation of India and one of the senior most doctors of the country.
Asked about the difference between chewing tobacco and smoking tobacco, he said,"Both are equally fatal.The choice is yours. If you smoke you die of lung cancer and if you chew tobacco you die of mouth or throat cancer."
He actually supported the ban on sale of pan masala by revealing statistics which prove that while in the West more people are dying of lung cancer in India the deaths due to mouth cancer are many times more."
It's a question of access.It's easy to procure pan masala at every nook and corner of the country.Secondly, women and children are more susceptible to using chewing tobacco than cigarettes which smells from faraway whereas a lot of consumers actually believe they are taking mouth fresheners or breath fresheners and people round them don't object and actually share it as sort of social networking,explains Dr.Aggarwal.
But how easily are these lobbies fooling the gullible masses and the government is simply amazing and a tribute to their genius.
There was a time,I am talking of maybe 20 years back, when an ayurvedic concoction known by the very alluring name of Mritasanjivani Sura has found its place in medical shops as it was being sold as a digestive medicine.
Shopkeepers, businessmen and those who had forgotten to buy their bottle for the dry day found it convenient to rush to the medical shop after normal shopping hours to procure this Sura with very high alcohol content but without the bitter taste, to forget their daily travails of life.
After 20 years I plead guilty of having busted their game because I informed Kiran Bedi of this loophole when she had as DCP(West) vowed to finish the liquor lobby in her district.She may not like to remember this in the changed circumstances today but she was given transfer orders because the powerful liquor lobby in the then BJP in Delhi was not happy with her campaign.
But back to square one. Will Brosnan be made an example for promoting misleading ads or will he become an excuse for other celebrities to wash their hands off when hauled up under the not very illegitimate logic that they did not have the time or means to check the accuracy or impact of the products they endorse.
Ke Sera Sera.