India’s Union health minister Ambumani Ramadoss has always expressedstrongly that celebrities like film-stars should be banned from smoking in public domains like movies. He believes it leads to other people copying the stars and leading to increase in smoking habits in the population.
His ire is particularly on Shahrukh Khan (SRK) and they have exchanged quite a few war of words since then. SRK even calls smoking a ‘creative liberty’. SRK has many backers who believe in freedom and suggest better way is to educate public (see this for instance.)
Actually the war of words is indirectly between the neoclassical economics (SRK and the liberals) and behavioral economics/BE (Ramadoss ). Former believes consumers are rational and can take care of what works best in their interest. So if a person realises smoking is not good for him he will not smoke. Hence, the need to educate and let people decide.
And the latter believes people are predictably irrational and make the same mistakes time and time again. So to expect them to choose wisely is not the right thing to do. Hence, to expect them to not to take up smoking by seeing advertisements may work for some but not all. We all know how difficult it is for a person to quit smoking once he starts, so all that rationality might not work.
The BE camp would suggest people take up smoking in varied emotions like stress, excitement etc. This is quite true as most of us know some people do take up smoking trying to look cool, fashionable, copying some movie-star etc. The smoking product companies knew this all along, and that is why you have most ads showing smokers as cool, macho etc. Now, the ban has been imposed on such ads but it has already created enough damage.
BE camp might say people know the ill-effects but cannot resist the temptation. So, it is better to try and request filmmakers to not smoke in their movies. This can atleast stop the habit picked up due to imitation.
What do you say?