After receiving a lot of flak for appearing in a Vimal Elaichi (cardamom) ad, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has issued a statement apologising to his fans and promising to donate the entire endorsement fees towards a "worthy" cause. "I am sorry," tweeted the ‘Sooryavanshi’ actor today.

In a social media post, the Bollywood actor said his fans' reaction in the past few days has "deeply affected" him. He clarified that while he had not, and will not endorse tobacco via advertisements, he has decided to "step back" from his association with the Vimal Elaichi brand.

Akshay Kumar's apology came hours after the ad featuring Bollywood biggies Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn and himself raked up a storm on social media.

"I have decided to contribute the entire endorsement fee towards a worthy cause. The brand might continue airing the ads till the legal duration of the contract that is binding upon me, but I promise to be extremely mindful in making my future choices," Akshay said in his apology to the fans and well-wishers.

These fans were "shocked" as it was perceived as an endorsement of a brand that's essentially a gutka firm by Akshay, whose revered by many for his fitness and health regimen. In his apology post, Akshay has not mentioned the duration of the contract for the Vimal Elaichi ad.

Akshay was trolled heavily on social media soon after the ad was aired last week. People started digging his old videos where he was seen claiming that though he had been offered several such ads (related to tobacco), he'll never associate himself with gutka (chewing tobacco) ads as he believed in 'Swasth Bharat'. Here's a video by shared by a user that's going viral on social media.

Social media backlash against Akshay Kumar has continued despite his apology. A Twitter user, Samkit S (@shahsamkit) said Akshay Kumar's episode is, once again, a gentle reminder that influencers or actors or athletes will promote and be brand ambassadors for products they don't use themselves. “Use your head next time you buy something. Don't be influenced blindly. Jaago grahak jaago,” he tweeted.

Another Twitter user, Ramesh Rajani (@R75872277Rajani) said Akshay Kumar is the only person “who can give you cancer through Vimal Pan Masala and then saving you with a health insurance from Policy Bazaar #hypocrisy. (sic)”

Apart from Akshay, the ad also features Ajay Devgn and Shah Rukh Khan. In this ad, they can be seen embracing the company tagline 'Bolo Zubaan Kesri'. Ajay Devgn has been the face of the brand for many years. SRK joined the brand last year as its brand ambassador. Before this, both SRK and Ajay had appeared in a Vimal ad together. It was last week that the ad also featured Akshay along with the two Bollywood stars.

Meanwhile, unlike Akshay, who has tried to distance himself from the brand, Ajay termed it a "personal choice", a news daily reported. During the promotion of his upcoming movie Runway 34, Ajay also clarified that he was doing an ad for a cardamom, and that an actor always considers cons of a brand before associating with it. He defended his association with the brand, saying if some things are so wrong, they should not be sold at all.

The government is moving ahead with regulations to ensure celebrities bear responsibility for their endorsement of a particular product. The Centre has finalised national guidelines to make all ads, celebrity endorsements and claims over products and services ethical, transparent and factual. These guidelines cover all kinds of ads, including surrogate ads where companies advertise non-core products instead of the main product, which is prohibited from advertisement. The guidelines also caution against free claims that are not justifiable or bait ads that entice customers without any reasonable prospects. They clearly state that ads should be considered valid only if they contain truthful and valid representation. These will impact endorsements like Vimal Elaichi one, and the endorser will have to take some responsibility for the message being conveyed.

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