Facebook gets notice for tobacco promotion

Chandigarh : Popular social networking website Facebook has been caught in a ‘smoky’ row. An anti-tobacco activist here has served a notice to the website, accusing it of “promotion of smoking culture” through its web pages.

Anti-tobacco activist Hemant Goswami Tuesday said he has served a notice to Facebook Inc. in California (US) and Facebook Ireland Ltd, which run the social networking website facebook.com, for violation of Indian laws that ban advertisement and promotion of tobacco products.

“Apparently, Facebook claims to have a policy of not advertising tobacco products through paid advertisement on its website. However, this claim remains ineffective as it allows all brands and tobacco products to be promoted through member pages and groups,” said Goswami, who is a member of the union health ministry’s National Steering Committee on Tobacco Control.

“Contrary to the claims, Facebook allows promotion of smoking culture through advertisements. We have sent a copy of links of such examples which are considered an offence under the Indian law to M/s Facebook,” he added.

Goswami said India’s law on tobacco control has a provision for imprisonment of up to five years for violations relating to prohibition of promotion or advertisement of tobacco products and brands.

“We are very serious in our pursuit to end this kind of promotion of tobacco brands and tobacco products on social networking sites like Facebook. To achieve this we will do everything possible,” he said.

“Governments across the globe are spending billions to end tobacco and have joined hands by way of the international treaty … but it is unfortunate that small opportunistic companies allow promotion of tobacco products for petty gains. Such companies need to be punished and civil damages too should be claimed from them to offset any profits these people might be making,” Goswami said.

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