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Pan Masala Mafia – Surrogate Advertisement

Pan Masala Mafia:- Have you ever noticed your favorite celebrities on TV or in newspapers in advertisements for Pan Masala and alcoholic liquor? But when you watch these ads closely, then you can see that the ads are not for alcohol or pan masala, instead, it is for cardamon, mouth freshener, or soda water. This is known as Surrogate Advertisement. Let us understand this surrogate mafia or pan masala mafia properly.

Similar to cigarettes, Gutka is a product that contains tobacco. And people chew it. There are hundreds of research papers in which it has been proven that chewing gutka leads to an increased risk of mouth cancer. This is the reason why for many years, the sale of gutka is actually banned in most Indian states. Under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulation, 2011, the government has banned gutka and pan masala that contains tobacco and nicotine. These can not be sold. But when this ban was enacted, these companies found a loophole.

They removed the tobacco from their products and said that they are selling tobacco-free pan masala. But along with it, in a different packet, they started selling tobacco. Selling two sachets instead of one. One for the tobacco-free pan masala and the tobacco in the other. People buy both packets together and mix them before consuming them. Interestingly, their tobacco-free masala still contained areca nuts. It is a potential cancer-causing agent. This loophole was in Regulations 2,3,4. Wording it so that it prohibits adding tobacco to any foodstuff. So what did they do? They started selling tobacco separately instead of adding it to the chewing mix. That is the loophole and increase the Pan Masala Mafia

Moreover, these companies have directly lied to their customers. In August 2019, 12 Pan Masala brands were analyzed in Bihar. The state Health Department sent the samples to the National Tobacco testing laboratories. 7 out of the 12 samples., were to be nicotine positive.

Brands like Kamla Pasand, Rajnigandha, and Rajshri were included in the 7. In their packets, these companies had written that their pan masala did not contain nicotine. That they are Nicotine-free. But actually, their samples contained nicotine. Additionally, all 12 pan masala brands were using a harmful chemical, magnesium carbonate. So many misstatements in their products. But now, let us talk about how these companies use advertisements to fool people.

Friends, the thing is, earlier ads for tobacco were legal in India. Tobacco could be freely advertised. You might remember, there was an ad with Akshay Kumar years ago, ‘people smoking red and white are better.’ He was promoting smoking in it. Thankfully, today Akshay Kumar starts in anti-smoking ads. That you can see in cinema halls even.

The ads for these tobacco products were banned in May 2003, Under COTPA (The Cigarettes And Other Tobacco Products), 2003, The Cigarettes And Other Tobacco Products, Prohibition Of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production Supply and Distribution Act, 2003. This change was not limited to India. The world health organization adopted the WHO FCTC, in May 2003.

Framework Convention of Tobacco Control:- The treaty aimed at discouraging tobacco use all around the world and 181 countries ratified this convention. But here the companies found the loophole of Surrogate Advertising. Normally, when a parent company launches various products, they launch them using different brand names with distinct taglines and logos. For example, did you know, that Hindustan Unilever Limited is the same company producing Cornetto ice cream and Horlicks powder?

Not only this, Horlicks and Boost, are products in the same category but belong to the same company but with different brand names. But what do the Pan Masala and gutka conpanies do? Exactly the opposite. They sell their multiple products under the same brand name, the same tagline, same logo in similar sachets. If they sell their non-tobacco products under the same name, same tagline, and the same logo, then it would create a brand recall in people’s minds. This is known as surrogate Advertising.

People would be confused about which products are being advertised, Pan masala with tobacco? Cardamom? or the mouth freshener? It is being done intentionally. They want people to be confused. Because they actually want to advertise their pan masala but in small letters, they show that it is cardamon that is advertised. This is known as Surrogate Advertisement.

Look carefully at the ad by Kamala Pasand. Amitabh Bachchan and Ranveer Singh are on the front page of the newspaper advertising it. If you look at it carefully, in minute letters, it is written that it is an ad for silver-coated cardamon. Other than this newspaper advertisement they have a 20-second long video ad where the father enjoys classical songs but the son enjoys modern songs, “both of them are different, but they have the same taste when it comes to Kamala Pasand.”

In this ad, they are holding the sachet of Kamala Pasand near their mouths implying that they consume it. In the ad, it is not even clarified which product they are consuming. But again, if you look really closely, it is written in tiny fonts that they are consuming the silver-coated cardamon by Kamala Pasand. Its sachet resembles that of the pan masala containing tobacco.

Similarly, if you watch the ad for Vimal with Shahrukh Khan and Ajay Devgan, nowhere in the ad is it specified that it is for cardamon, but at the end, for a few seconds, they will show ‘cardamon’ written on their sachet. Similarly, alcohol brands use surrogate advertisements through bottled water and soda. In fact, even music CDs. Whoever used CDs for listening to music now? Friends, our government is not unaware of what is happening.

The Advertisement Standards Council of India has enacted Advertising Regulations, regarding surrogate advertisements. It means that laws do exist for surrogate advertisements. These laws state that the product extension must be genuine. This means, that if you are selling cardamom, bottled water, or soda, the brand can advertise only existing products. They can not claim to be selling cardamon, but they do not actually have a cardamon product.

It can not be found in any shop. It is important to have the e product and according to the rules, the net sales turnover from the product must be at least Rs 2 million at the time of the launch of the ad. Or the company may show that they have made asset investments into the product. Like, such as buying land, building a factory, and getting machinery or software that is exclusive to the product. And its value must be at least Rs 100 million.

The next rule states that the product extension should be registered with a government authority, under GST, FSSAI, or FDA. And that it should be audited by independent organizations. And it is also mandated that no surrogate advertisement can hint toward any banned product. Not even imply it.

Pan Masala Mafia - Surrogate Advertisement

                                                                  Pan Masala Mafia – Surrogate Advertisement

For example, in Shahrukh Khan’s Royal stag ad, he says ‘ Keep adding smalls to make it large.’ It is not believable that he is talking about music CDs instead of whisky. For this reason, ASCI banned 12 advertisements at the beginning of this year in January. When their investigation found that there are ads that hint towards the banned products, Bireclty hinting them.

These ads were run during the last IPL and companies like Royal Stag, Sterling Reserve, and Blender’s Pride were involved in it. The judgment was passed that these ads may be run after suitable modifications. You can imagine how easy it is for companies. Though the ad was banned, they can publish it again after some adjustments. Friends, apart from surrogate advertisements, there are several unethical marketing tactics, used by the brands.

Kothari products, the company manufacturing Pan Parag, had an annual sales turnover for the year 2020, at Rs 41 billion. So, you can imagine? These companies are earning billions. For them, showing sales at Rs 2 million per month, around Rs 24 million per year, how difficult can it be? These laws are not strong at all. Similarly, how difficult would be for them to modify the ad a little and run it again? The existing laws have a negligible impact on these ads. Even if a company follows all the rules, suppose Kamla Pasand, Vimal, and Rajnigandha actually have business from silver-coated cardamon.

That meets the requirements for the minimum sales turnover, and are genuine products without tobacco in them. Despite that using the same brand name and taglines, and creating recall value for the Pan Masala, are not the surrogate ads unfair? Are not they unethical? is not it PanMasala Mafia?

In my opinion, it has a simple solution, the government should make such a law that any company selling alcohol or tobacco products under any brand name, should not be allowed to use the same brand name and tagline for other products. If Vimal wants to sell its Vimal Pan Masala, then it should not be allowed to name its other product Vimal Elaichi or any similar name. If Kingfisher Beer exists Kingfisher Soda should not. Both should have distinct brand names. Change the name of the Soda from Kingfisher to anything else. And it is a very simple solution this should be banned. They should not have the same brand names or similar brand names.

To do this, a strong political will is required. If the government wants to do this, it can do so immediately. But the entire responsibility can not be shifted to the government alone. If we put aside politics or the legal framework, there is some responsibility on the celebrities as well. That they should not advertise such products. A Goa oncologist Dr. Shekhar Salkar, the President of the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication, wrote an open letter to Amitabh Bachchan in September that he stop doing such ads and withdraw them immediately.

It is quite simple, these are rich people. Earning billions of rupees, what is the desperation behind advertising such harmful products? What is the use of becoming an influencer or a celebrity if you start selling cancer to people? After a large number of people spoke out against it, 2 days later, the news came in that Amitabh Bachchan, backed out of the ad for the Pan Masala and that he had returned the money. (Pan Masala Mafia)

It is yet to be seen how true it is. Because you can still see the same ad with Amitabh Bachchan on TV. Additionally, there is a long list of celebrities who are literally selling cancer to the people of the country. Ranveer Singh, Shahrukh Khan, Ajay Devgan, and many other celebrities that have starred in the ads for mouth fresheners in the past that were surrogate ads for pan masala, or ‘cardamon’ ads. Salman Khan, Hritik Roshan, Manoj Bajpayee, Tiger Shroff, Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Sunny Leone, Govinda, Mahesh Babu, Ravi Kishan, Arbaaz Khan, Sanjay Dutt, and Akshay Kumar.

Though those celebrities should also be credited who used to star in these ads earlier but later when they realized that they were wrong, they stopped doing these ads. Like in 2016, when the Additional Director of the Delhi Government’s Health Department openly appealed to all celebrities, to stop being a part of such ads. Sunny Leone had promised that she would not sign any future contracts for such products. But there are many unabashed actors that still continue to openly star in such ads. Ajay Devgan’s classic as that runs so frequently, “It will be glorious when the three friends meet.”

Another Bigpipers ad featuring Shahrukh Khan. Vimal’s ad still runs with Shahrukh Khan and Ajay Devgan. Personally, I have no enmity against any celebrity. Many of the celebrities that I named, are those whom I love to watch. I love their work. But it is very important to point out the wrong. Because these have a very negative impact on the citizens and our society. That is why it is important to point it out to Pan Masala Mafia. This is all about Pan masala Mafia.











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