Anti-Tobacco Rules: No Compromise with OTT Platforms

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has clarified that there is no compromise on the applicability of anti-tobacco rules to OTT (over-the-top) platforms, and media reports claiming otherwise are “false and misleading”.

The press release dated October 21, 2023, refers to a specific news report which stated that the Government had entered into an “uneasy compromise” with OTT streaming services regarding the incorporation of smoking warnings into their online content. Hence, it was considered necessary to issue this clarification and refute such claims.

On World No-Tobacco Day, i.e., May 31, 2023, the Ministry notified amendments to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Rules, 2004. The amendment rules require publishers of online content to display anti-tobacco health spots, warnings (“Tobacco causes cancer” or “Tobacco kills”), and audio-visual disclaimers in the prescribed manner. They were notified after guidelines were issued in this regard and have been in force w.e.f. September 1, 2023.

Accordingly, it has been reiterated that all OTT platforms have to “strictly” comply with the amendment rules and action would be taken by an inter-ministerial committee for any non-compliance.