Initially, let’s be clear, these movie stars endorse a sister brand that sells elaichi or cardamom, not pan masala or gutkha, which are banned from advertising, but the brand is indistinguishable. a product/service by disguising it as another product/service under the same brand name.
The social media outburst died down slowly but Ajay Devgn had our ears when asked about the media endorsement and he said: ‘If some things are so bad then they shouldn’t be sold.”
The actor, who was promoting his latest directorial adventure on track 34, said: “It’s a personal choice. When you do something, you also see how harmful it would be. Some things are harmful , some are not. I would say it without naming because I don’t want to promote it; I was doing elaichi. What I feel is more than advertisements, if some things are so bad, then they should not be sold.”
But the elaichi blanket is exactly what Vimal exploits to sell the damaging gutka to thousands of Indians, contributing to a lakh of oral cancer cases every year.
Gutka is a tobacco product and is regulated under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition, Advertising and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003. It cannot be advertised but can be sold as alcohol.
Incidentally, alcohol, although harmful to health and sometimes a threat to society, is a major source of revenue for states. Remember they were the first to reopen amid the covid pandemic when governments have eased restrictions.
A report published by the Reserve Bank of India last September (“State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2019-20”) shows that state excise duties on alcohol account for around 10-15% of revenue taxes specific to a majority of States.
Pan masala is also among India’s largest industries, with an estimated market of over Rs 40,000 crore.
The barons who run these companies lead lives just as glamorous as the stars who endorse the products, although they are not as familiar faces in the media as moguls in other industries.
For movie stars too, the appeal of the pan masala brand lies in its massive reach – from cities to the hinterland, which helps them grow their fan base.
Can Ajay Devgn, or other celebrities, avoid the responsibility that comes with being an influencer?