A heavily bearded Brosnan appeared on the front page of Indian national newspapers and TV advertisements earlier this month to promote pan masala, a preparation that can contain tobacco, lime, spices and nuts, reports The Guardian.
The product – use of which has been known to increase the risk of developing mouth and throat cancers – is expectorated in red bursts across Indian streets and sidewalks.
After an uproar – including from the Indian government, which has banned pan masala advertising – the company clarified that the specific variety Brosnan was promoting contained neither tobacco nor nicotine.
But at least one of the varieties does contain supari, a kind of nut considered by the World Health Organisation to be carcinogenic.
The advertisements have been pulled from television.
Brosnan said on Friday he was “deeply shocked and saddened” that his image was used to promote a potentially harmful product. “I would never have entered into an agreement to promote a product in India that is dangerous to one’s health,” he said in a statement to People Magazine.
He said he had agreed to advertise a product that he was told was a “breath freshener/tooth whitener [and] all-natural, containing neither tobacco, supari, nor any other harmful ingredient”.
“Having endured, in my own personal life, the loss of my first wife and daughter as well as numerous friends to cancer, I am fully committed to supporting women’s healthcare and research programmes that improve human health and alleviate suffering,” he said.
Brosnan also claimed the company, Pan Bahar, had “grossly manipulated” the advertising campaign to suggest the former James Bond star endorsed its entire product line, “in violation of my contract”.
“I shall endeavour to rectify this matter,” he said. “In the meantime please accept my sincerest and heartfelt apologies to all whom I have offended.”
His initial appearance in the advertisements drew derision on social media and his apology earned the same treatment.