If the consumption of tobacco is not okay, India should just ban it

Source: The post is based on the article “If the consumption of tobacco is not okay, India should just ban it” published in “Live mint” on 5th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues related to health

News: India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare plans to enforce additional anti-tobacco controls on Online Curated Content Providers (OCCPs)

What are Online Curated Content Providers (OCCPs)?

OCCPs are platforms that deliver digitally streamed entertainment content over the internet. These platforms include popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. OCCPs typically offer a wide range of content, including movies, TV series, documentaries, and other forms of entertainment, which they curate or organize based on the user’s preferences, viewing history, or specific categories. OCCPs are different from other online platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc., which provide user-generated content.

What is the government plan to enforce more anti-tobacco regulations on OCCPs?

As per these guidelines, the OCCPs will be required to display textual warnings on the harmful effects of tobacco use when scenes involving such products are shown.

The OCCPs have been given 90 days to comply and adopt a technical solution to this. Additionally, the warnings must be displayed in the language of the audio track of the content, which means OCCPs may need to translate the warnings into multiple languages.

The content providers are also expected to review their existing libraries manually to identify all instances of tobacco use. This implies a significant task of viewing and marking the relevant sections in their vast content libraries.

The onus of implementing these changes and adhering to the new guidelines will be primarily on the content owners, with OCCPs offering the required technical solutions. This could lead to substantial content going offline if it’s impractical for OCCPs or content owners to comply with these new regulations.

What are the challenges in implementing this plan?

Multi-language compliance: The requirement to display warnings in the language of the audio track can lead to logistical and financial burdens, as it necessitates translating warnings into multiple languages.

Manual review requirement: Manually identifying content containing the use of tobacco products could take millions of hours, as it cannot be accomplished solely by automated technology. This diverts significant resources from content creation to compliance efforts.

Burden on small providers: Smaller streaming platforms might find it especially difficult to comply with these new guidelines. It might stifle innovation and foster an unequal playing field.

Potential content loss: If content owners refuse or fail to comply with these guidelines, OCCPs may need to remove the non-compliant content, leading to a significant loss of content available for consumers.

Impact on International Content: It could deter international content creators from including tobacco warnings in their work, limiting the availability of popular international titles in India.

What should be done?

Re-evaluation of guidelines: The government should avoid unnecessarily burdensome requirements. The focus should be on measures that are practical, efficient, and not overly disruptive to the industry.

Learning from global practices: Countries like Singapore, Australia, and the EU have managed to create regulations that balance public health concerns with industry growth. India can gain valuable insights from these models.

Comprehensive public health campaigns: Instead of placing the entire burden on OCCPs, the government could invest in comprehensive public health campaigns addressing the root causes of tobacco consumption, such as stress and peer pressure.

Inclusive policy framework: Regulations should be created in consultation with industry stakeholders to ensure they are inclusive and consider the operational realities of OCCPs. This will ensure a more effective and fair policy framework.

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