India has banned smoking scenes in movies and on television, saying they glamorize the use of cigarettes. The move has angered filmmakers in the prolific Bollywood movie industry.

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -- India has banned smoking scenes in movies and on television, saying they glamorize the use of cigarettes. The move has angered filmmakers in the prolific Bollywood movie industry.

In tough new regulations, the health ministry said distributors and directors would have to show health warnings on screens in old movies and TV shows, whether Indian or foreign, that showed actors smoking.

"[There would have to be a] mandatory display of a prominent scroll containing a health warning in programs containing scenes with smoking situations that have been produced before this notification," a ministry statement said on June 1.

The new rules also mean names or logos of tobacco products would have to be cut or masked.

Thailand also banned smoking scenes in films in 2000.

Bollywood, which turns out three times more movies than Hollywood, often depicts its macho heroes with cigarettes or cheaper-priced handrolled bidis dangling from their lips.

"It is an absurd regulation...to ban smoking on screen is ridiculous. It's a joke taken too far," filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt was quoted in The Times of India.

Another director, Shyam Benegal, told the newspaper the move would interfere with artistic expression.

"The smoking act comes in handy when you want to develop a character. The ban does not make sense," Benegal said.

But the World Health Organization, which estimates smoking is linked to more than 800,000 deaths in India a year, mainly among men aged between 25 to 69, lauded the move.

"Portrayal of attractive people smoking has an influence on young people as some of them identify with those on the screens," said Harsaran Pandey, WHO's spokeswoman for Southeast Asia.

In May 2004, India banned smoking in public places, such as railway stations and parks, as well as tobacco advertising and sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco firms.