Government backtracks on decision to have bigger pictorial warnings on tobacco products

Health activists and experts believe the government has succumbed to pressure from industry

By Savita Verma
Published: Wednesday 01 April 2015

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday announced that there was no change in the commitments to curb consumption of tobacco by increasing the size of pictorial warnings on packets of such products. With this, tobacco control measures in the country have suffered a huge blow.

Health activists and experts are up in arms against the government’s tendency to value industry’s interests more than those of the public and its health. Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) had recently warned the governments against tactics used by tobacco companies to further their interests.

Several civil rights activists, Members of Parliament, doctors, patients and health experts came together in Delhi on March 31, 2015 to express shock at the government decision to keep implementation of large warnings in abeyance. In the meeting, Supriya Sule, Lok Sabha MP from Pune and a member of Nationalist Congress Party, sought Prime Minister’s intervention so that larger warnings are implemented as soon as possible.  "It is very disheartening to see that government has decided to delay its earlier decision of having bigger and stronger new pictorial health warnings. India demonstrated global leadership when it announced its new 85 per cent pictorial health warnings in October 2014.

( ),” said the politician. She further added that taking cue from India, countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka had also announced to increase the size of their pictorial warnings to 90 per cent, 85 per cent and 80 per cent respectively.

Sources also told Down To Earth that the government was in the process of issuing a notification deferring implementation of its earlier decision to increase the size of health warnings on tobacco products due to committee’s report and a letter written by committee chairman Dilip Gandhi on March 2, 2015. The increased warnings, notified on October 15, 2014, were to come into effect from April 1, 2015.

The proposed meant that tobacco warnings should cover at least 85 per cent of the product packets. Of the warning area, 60 per cent is to be covered by pictures and 25 per cent by written warnings. Currently, warnings cover only 40 per cent of tobacco product packets.

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