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Statement on India’s requirement that depictions of tobacco use on Netflix and other streaming media services be accompanied by health warnings

For the first time, a country has taken steps to regulate content on streaming media services to protect people from tobacco, the world’s leading preventable killer. Netflix and other services expose billions to content that glamorizes tobacco. We applaud India for taking this bold, first step, and encourage other governments to follow.

Statement by Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President of Policy Advocacy and Communication, on India’s requirement that depictions of tobacco use on Netflix and other streaming media services be accompanied by health warnings.

“India has just become the first country in the world to regulate tobacco content in online video streaming platforms. The new regulations will help prevent tobacco industry messaging and imagery from reaching the ever-expanding audiences that consume media online, especially youth. The new rules will also provide important warnings to current tobacco users, which may prompt more attempts to quit.

The regulations require health warning messages to appear before, during and after content that depicts tobacco use, extending an existing law, known as the Film Rule, that applies to movie theaters and broadcast television channels.

The importance of protecting consumers from tobacco marketing in media has been known for decades. This rule addresses the fact that the 21st century media landscape and consumer behavior have shifted dramatically to less-regulated streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Hulu, Disney, Zee5 and others. These services are projected to reach 4.2 billion people by 2027.

Content on these platforms has been found to feature more tobacco imagery in programs than traditional television. In India alone, 57% of episodes across 10 streaming series popular among young people had at least one instance of tobacco use. A new report by STOP, the tobacco industry watchdog, detailed that on Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” documentary alone, content featuring embedded tobacco sponsorship streamed for more than 1 billion minutes, including in the first minute of half of the episodes.

India’s enhanced Film Rule will require that 30-second tobacco use warning messages and an audio-visual disclaimer of at least 20 seconds be played at the beginning and middle of programs. In addition, static warnings will be applied across the bottom of the screen whenever tobacco is depicted.

This is a proud moment for government and for health experts who have been advocating greater protection for consumers in an increasingly complex media environment. Vital Strategies has been honored to support the government of India, alongside WHO and other public health organizations, in advancing its tobacco control agenda since 2008.

Our research has helped identify gaps in implementation of the rules and opportunities for closing them and we have collaborated on world-class health warning campaigns and policy implementation. Most recently, our work has included monitoring hidden forms of tobacco marketing online in India and other countries through an innovative monitoring system called the Tobacco Enforcement and Reporting Movement (TERM)”

For more information on Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit our Tobacco Control Program page.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies believes every person should be protected by an equitable and effective public health system. We partner with governments, communities and organizations around the world to reimagine public health so that health is supported in all the places we live, work and play. The result is millions of people living longer, healthier lives.

To learn more visit or follow us @VitalStrat.

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