The Indian government has banned all scenes showing smokingor cigarette packs in films and TV programmes. The new law will apply to bothIndian films and to foreign films released in India.

The move, part of a anti-tobaccoclampdown, also bans film-makers showing cigarette packs, billboards or usingany item with a cigarette brand name on it in their movies.

Films that have already been shotand include scenes of people smoking will be obliged to carry a note at thebottom of the screen, warning of the hazards of smoking.

Television channels will berequired to blur the screen each time an actor lights up or a cigarette brandappears.

With these stringent rules, Indiabecomes the first country to ban smoking on screen.

The ban is effective from August 1,2005.

Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhattdescribed the move as ''an absurd regulation''. ''One would understand if thegovernment tried to sensitise film-makers and actors, but to ban smoking onscreen is ridiculous, it's a joke taken too far. And how can one insert awarning right in the middle of a scene' It'll jar the senses,'' he said in apress statement