India: Advocates Call for Government Enforcement of Advertising Ban to Shut Down Four Square Concert Series and Promotion
In January 2010, tobacco control advocates discovered that cigarette producer Godfrey Philips India violated Indian law by sponsoring a concert series and singing competition using its number one selling brand Four Square. The event titled “Four Square- GET FAMOUS- be Tamil Nadu’s Next Singing Sensation” defied India’s tobacco control law which bans advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products (Section 5 of The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act, 2003). The Four Square events and promotion included a singing contest where winners receive a chance to record an album, prize giveaways inside promotional packs of cigarettes and a concert series featuring famous singers, dancers and celebrities. The singing contest and promotional concerts were heavily advertised in the city of Chennai with large billboards, point of sale displays, contest entry locations and through an event website.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) supported the efforts of Pasumai Thaayagam (Green Motherland) based in Tamil Nadu, India in efforts to document and counter the events in Chennai.
- Tobacco control advocates from Pasumai Thaayagam attended concerts and documented violations of the advertising law throughout Chennai.
- Advocates conducted a letter writing campaign sending letters to celebrities participating in the events, retailers promoting the events, and to Godfrey Philips.
- Official complaints were filed with the Commissioner of Police, Health Minister, the State Tobacco Control Cell and the City of Chennai.
- Pasumai Thaayagam launched a media campaign to bring attention to the violations, which included a statement from India’s former Health Minister, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss.
- Advocates held a public demonstration at the police station where a formal complaint against event organizers was made by members of Pasumai Thaayagam.
After the former Health Minister’s statement was released to the press, event organizers and officials reacted.
- There was extensive media coverage surrounding advocacy efforts to expose the advertising, promotion and sponsorship violation.
- Following the media surrounding Dr. Ramaboss’ statement, the state government of Tamil Nadu announced that the concerts were illegal and banned.
- Every concert after January 24, 2010 was cancelled, as was indicated by the removal of event announcements from the Four Square website.
- More than 100 advocates and media attended the public demonstration at the police station and observed the registration of the formal complaint. City police registered the complaint but no further legal action was taken by officials to prosecute the event organizers.