Pierce Brosnan Says He Was "Cheated" by Indian Breath-Freshener Brand

Pierce Brosnan

The former James Bond actor responded to a notice by Indian authorities, which asked him to explain why he was associated with the controversial Pan Bahar company.

Pierce Brosnan has told Indian authorities that he was "cheated" by the Pan Bahar brand, which the actor endorsed in an advertising campaign in 2016. Brosnan was featured in a commercial for Pan Bahar, a traditional Indian breath freshener — or "pan masala" in Hindi — that is a mixture of nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.

Brosnan's association with the brand sparked controversy because the use of pan masala has never been seen as a healthy habit, and some studies have suggested it may include an addictive form of tobacco and ingredients that can cause cancer.

This led the state government of Delhi to issue a notice against Brosnan last month demanding an explanation for his association with the brand. It also issued a notice to Ashok & Co., which owns the Pan Bahar brand, but the company has yet to issue a statement.

According to local reports Thursday, which quoted a government health official, Brosnan replied to the Delhi State Tobacco Control Cell stating that he was "cheated by the company, as the latter did not disclose the hazardous nature of the product and other terms and conditions of the contract of advertisement."

The official also added that Brosnan said his agreement with the company "was over and that he was ready to extend all kinds of support and cooperation to our department against such campaigns. He has given an undertaking in writing that he would never assist any company with regard to promotion of such products or other such harmful products in future."

While Brosnan has distanced himself from the brand, the commercial is still running on television and in cinemas. The commercial re-creates a 007-style scenario in which Brosnan overpowers some villains, all with the help of a Pan Bahar tin in his hand, impressing an awestruck wannabe Bond girl.

Following the controversy when the campaign first ran, Brosnan had issued an apology stating that the use of his image in the campaign was "unauthorized and deceptive" and a violation of his contract. Brosnan said he agreed to advertise a single product presented as "all-natural containing neither tobacco, supari, nor any other harmful ingredient." He also added that the company "grossly manipulated" media outlets to make it seem as if he was a brand ambassador for an entire line of products.

In the past, some Bollywood stars, such as Saif Ali Khan, have endorsed such products. However, in 2016, the Delhi government issued a directive requesting Bollywood stars to not endorse pan masala. "Even if these pan masalas do not contain tobacco or nicotine, they surely contain areca nuts [known as 'supari' in Hindi], and now there are a lot of scientific evidences which prove that supari causes cancer," the directive stated.