Indian authorities have threatened Pierce Brosnan with a two year jail sentence for promoting a chewable mouth freshener which has allegedly been linked to cancer.
The Irish actor’s image has been used in print advertisements for Pan Bahar, a brand associated with pan masala, an addictive stimulant marketed as a breath freshener, whose ingredients often include tobacco and other carcinogens.
Officials at India’s department of health have sent the former James Bond star, 64, a legal notice asking him to explain his appearance in the adverts – and if he fails to respond within ten days, he could face jail or a fine of 5,000 Indian Rupees, worth $78.
Health department director S K Arora told The Indian Express, “We have issued the notice to Pierce Brosnan through the company, and also reached out to him via social media platforms. If he fails to respond to the notice, he would face punishment of a fine up to Rs 5,000 or two years in prison.”
Pan masala, or gutka, is chewed and spat out in bright red streams by millions of Indians, many of whom develop an addiction. It is banned from sale in a number of Indian states.
All tobacco advertising was banned in India in 2003, and government officials argue that the areca nut, which is contained in the product and like tobacco is carcinogenic and addictive, is covered by the law.
The adverts first sparked outrage in 2016, and he issued a statement to People magazine saying he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the advert as he had lost his first wife Cassandra Harris and step-daughter Charlotte to cancer.
He claimed he had signed a deal with bosses at its manufacturer Ashok & Co, to promote a different product, a “breath freshener/tooth whitener,” which wouldn’t include any harmful ingredients.
“I shall endeavor to rectify this matter,” his statement read. “In the meantime, please accept my sincerest and heartfelt apologies to all whom I have offended.”