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OTT content doesn’t influence smoking habits in India; peer pressure, stress are key drivers: Koan Advisory Group survey

Released ahead of World No Tobacco Day the report sheds light on the primary factors influencing smoking behaviour and questions the necessity of additional health warnings on Over-The-Top (OTT) content services

Koan Advisory Group, the technology policy consulting firm, has released a study that challenges the prevailing narrative surrounding smoking habits in India.

Released ahead of World No Tobacco Day – which is on May 31-  the report titled "The Effectiveness of Tobacco Disclaimers on OTT Content Services: A Behavioural Appraisal," sheds light on the primary factors influencing smoking behaviour and questions the necessity of additional health warnings on Over-The-Top (OTT) content services. 

Conducted between March and April 2023, the survey engaged 1896 online users across 350 locations in India. Most of the respondents were men aged between 18 and 35, offering insights into the habits of this demographic group. The study found that 66.6% of respondents remained indifferent to the depiction of smoking on OTT content services.

Factors such as peer pressure, the influence of friends, and mental stress were identified as more significant drivers of smoking habits in India. The report also emphasized that people primarily consume OTT content for recreational purposes and found minimal evidence to support a direct causal relationship between OTT content and behavioural changes.

Moreover, the study revealed that many respondents questioned the need for additional disclaimers, citing existing content descriptors and age ratings as sufficient. Over 50% of participants expressed concerns that additional text disclaimers could negatively impact their viewing experience. The report explains that the prevalence of smartphone usage for OTT consumption, with screens typically ranging from six to seven inches, heightens the potential for distractions and disruption to the overall viewing experience.

It also examined the approaches taken by countries such as Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the European Union regarding tobacco depiction on OTT content services.

Findings suggest that these nations have opted for a moderate approach, emphasising technical measures such as age rating and content descriptors, rather than imposing more prescriptive solutions.

Vivan Sharan, Partner at Koan Advisory Group, said, "Our study assesses the prevailing narrative on smoking habits in India. The findings highlight the minimal impact of OTT content on smoking habits, with peer pressure and mental stress emerging as more significant drivers. As policymakers deliberate on regulations, it is essential to consider the broader context and adopt a balanced approach. By embracing this, we can develop more effective strategies to combat smoking addiction while preserving the immersive and enjoyable viewing experience that audiences seek."

As India contemplates regulations requiring health warnings on smoking scenes in OTT content, the study urges policymakers to consider the broader context and the primary factors influencing smoking habits. It also recommends that all OTT content services in India affiliate with existing self-regulatory bodies to address these challenges effectively. It also suggests aligning age-gating and age-verification mechanisms with global best practices and strengthening institutional support to address the health concerns of young individuals.

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