Customs and Central Excise withdraws controversial ad

Drink aerated drinks and do social service 

This is the message that the customs and central excise department gave through its advertisements that was published in leading newspapers on February 21.

The advertisement said that the central excise duty, which is to the tune of rs 95,508 crores (paid between April- December 2010),  consumers pay on aerated drink is used to meet the drinking water requirements of millions. It reads that 'The Central Excise Duty you pay on aerated drinks helps quench the thirst of millions'- it almost seems that the more people drink aerated drinks, the more they are contributing towards the society and doing a social service.

When CSE approached the Customs and Central Excise Department this is what they had to say- “The advertisement is a part of a series to promote voluntary compliance where duties of central excise and service taxes are concerned to inculcate awareness of benefits accruing from proper payment of taxes. The text in no way eulogizes drinking of aerated water.” 

Though the advertisement does not name a brand, it does have pictorial representation and in a way promotes aerated drinks and its consumption. The publishing of such an advertisement by a government department is unacceptable and not in the best interest of the public.

Consumption of aerated drinks is known to have long term health impacts like obesity, osteoporosis, gastronomic distress, calcium loss and kidney stones. Obesity in India has grown by 20 percent between 1998 and 2005 and obesity increases the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, stroke and high blood pressure.

The department agrees that aerated drinks are harmful for health but since they were not banned by the government the advertisement did not violate any rules or principle. They however agreed to reconsider publishing the advertisement again and have refrained from doing so (see Response from Customs and Central Excise Department).