Background: Pan masala is a comparatively recent habit in India and is marketed with and without tobacco. Advertisements of tobacco products have been banned in India since 1st May 2004. The advertisements of plain pan masala, which continue in Indian media, have been suspected to be surrogate for tobacco products bearing the same name. The study was carried out to assess whether these advertisements were for the intended product, or for tobacco products with same brand name.
Materials and methods: The programme of a popular television Hindi news channel was watched for a 24-h period. Programmes on the same channel and its English counterpart were watched on different days to assess whether the advertisements were repeated. The total duration of telecast of a popular brand of plain pan masala (Pan Parag) was multiplied by the rate charged by the channel to provide the cost of advertisement of this product. The total sale value of the company was multiplied by the proportion of usage of plain pan masala out of gutka plus pan masala habit as observed from a different study, to provide the annual sale value of plain pan masala product under reference.
Results: The annual sale value of plain Pan Parag was estimated to be Rs. 67.1 million. The annual cost of the advertisement of the same product on two television channels was estimated at Rs. 244.6 million.
Conclusion: The advertisements of plain pan masala seen on Indian television are a surrogate for the tobacco products bearing the same name.