India’s health ministry has asked states to take action against cigarette advertisements that violate regulations, and plans to seek an explanation from cigarette maker Philip Morris International about its marketing practices.
The cigarette maker is facing scrutiny for tactics that government officials say disregard the country's law, Reuters reports.
Philip Morris advertises Marlboro cigarettes, the world’s best-selling brand, at tobacco shops in India and distributes free cigarettes at nightclubs and bars to promote the brand, the news service reported earlier this week.
Indian government officials have previously said these marketing activities violate the country's Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act and its accompanying rules. However, the enforcement of these laws has been weak.
India has around 100 million smokers, while tobacco use kills more than 900,000 people a year in the country.
The government now plans to write letters to Philip Morris as well as other tobacco companies and take "action as per law", according to Arun Kumar Jha, a federal health ministry official who oversees tobacco control in the country.
The ministry will also ask states to take action against advertisements that violate regulations, Jha said.
"Our basic objective is to reduce deaths caused by tobacco," he said.
Philip Morris previously described its advertising as "compliant with Indian law".
It's not the first time the cigarette and tobacco company has been accused of bypassing laws. The company was accused of using branded reusable cigarette tins to bypass the strict plain packaging laws that are came into force in the UK in May.