World Heart Day: Cardiologists insist on 85 per cent pictorial warnings on tobacco products

The measure is also critical to meet the sustainable development goals 

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Monday 28 September 2015
World Heart Day
World Heart Day World Heart Day

On the occasion of World Heart Day 2015, cardiologists came together in Delhi demanding from the government immediate implementation of the 85 per cent pictorial health warnings. They said it is a critical measure to meet the goals set in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted on September 26, 2015.

“Heart attacks are the number one effect of tobacco. Unless we control tobacco consumption, we cannot expect cardio-vascular diseases to reduce,” said K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India.

The 85 per cent pictorial health warnings were originally scheduled for implementation on April 1, 2015 but were delayed following a recommendation by the Lok Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation. The Committee cited lack of concrete evidence on the linkage between tobacco use and life threatening diseases.

The Cardiology Society of India has demanded that the measures of pictorial warning be implemented immediately. At present, pictorial health warnings cover 40 per cent of the principal display area of tobacco packages. India is currently ranked at the 136th position worldwide vis-à-vis warnings labels, according to an international report published by the Canadian Cancer Society in 2014.

“Ten lakh people in the world die every year due to tobacco consumption, which means nearly 2,000 every day. A person who smokes is 10 times more likely to die of a heart attack than a non-smoker. Smoking makes the arteries and veins narrow, making blood flow difficult, which becomes very dangerous in case of a stroke,” said H K Chopra, President, Cardiological Society of India. He said that this is the reason why CSI has kept the demand on World Heart Day this year.

“Goal 3 of SDGs is ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Target 3.4 is one-third reduction in pre-mature mortality due to non-communicable diseases by 2030. Control on tobacco consumption is crucial to meet this target,” said Reddy. Reduction of 25 per cent is to be achieved by 2025 with 2010 as the base year.

Death in the age-group 30-60 years due to any NCD is called pre–mature death. Evidence shows that deaths due to heart diseases among people as young as early 20s has been increasing in India. 

Reddy said that while preventing people from starting tobacco will help, it is equally important to take the smokers off from smoking. “The current smokers will lead to many deaths in the coming 15 years when SDGs are to be achieved. Thus, they have to be put off smoking. The most effective way to deter them is pictorial warnings,” he said.

Pictorial warnings about cancer already exist. The CSI has suggested rotational pictures on different effects. “There should be pictures informing about cancers, CVDs, cataract, damage to health of children in the house etc. One particular picture becomes stale and its impact on psychology of the smoker reduces,” said Chopra.

Taking a dig at a recent statement by Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, chairperson of ITC Limited, company that produces leading brands of cigarette like Gold Flake, Reddy said that people’s lives are more important than revenues earned by the government.

“He said ‘don’t kill the goose that gives golden eggs.’ I would say let’s not kill people, and that is more important,” said Reddy.

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