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40% of ads promoted tobacco brands during Cricket World Cup '23 : Indian Council of Medical Research

The study emphasises prohibition of any kind of direct and indirect brand association of tobacco products in all national and international sports.

According to a study done by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Vital Strategies, a global public health organisation, out of all the ads for smokeless tobacco (SLT) products, 41.3% were shown during cricket matches.

Of these ads, 40% were broadcast during India's matches and 37.8% were shown during matches involving teams from South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka).

Cardamom was the main product advertised through such advertisements. "Two SLT brands, Vimal and Kamla Pasand, contributed to the surrogate SLT advertisements. While the promotion of the Vimal brand was entirely led by prominent Bollywood celebrities, former cricketers led the surrogate advertisements for Kamla Pasand," the study that was published in the British Medical Journal in May said.

Five trained researchers gathered data while watching the last 17 World Cup matches. The total viewing time was about 126 hours, with each match being streamed for an average of 7 hours and 47 minutes.

The ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 was hosted by India and broadcast on Star Sports. 10 countries (Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, and Sri Lanka) took part in the 46-day tournament. The event was watched for over a trillion minutes worldwide.

The SLT industry mainly targeted matches involving one of the five South Asian countries.

According to Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), India's Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA) bans all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. However, the tobacco industry tries to get around these rules by promoting tobacco products indirectly, especially in sports.

In India, the COTPA law and Cable Television Network Rules forbid showing any ads for tobacco products, both directly and indirectly, in films and television shows. Since September 1, 2023, this rule also applies to over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

Smokeless tobacco is used by over 350 million people in 70 countries worldwide, across all World Health Organization (WHO) regions.

India is major producer and user of SLT products, with over 200 million adult users. It is responsible for almost 80% of SLT-related deaths worldwide. The tobacco industry spends around $500 million every year promoting SLT products.

In 2023, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) came up with a list of brands categories, including tobacco, which are completely prohibited from applying for sponsorship.

"Surrogate advertising of SLT products through international cricket tournaments helps the industry to promote its products in global markets, in violation of FCTC Article 13. National and international cricket and other sports boards should consider imposing a complete prohibition on any kind of direct and indirect brand association of tobacco products in all sports," the study said.

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