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Why India Drags its Feet on Pictorial Warnings in Tobacco Packs?

Health News
4 min read
Why India Drags its Feet on Pictorial Warnings in Tobacco Packs?
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However bad you thought smoking was, it’s even worse.

Every cigarette you smoke makes it more likely for you to get a heart disease. Roughly 1 in 5 deaths from heart disease is directly linked to smoking. More than 2.5 million teenagers smoke everyday in India and tobacco kills 150 people every hour in the country. (Source: International Tobacco Control Project)

The World Health Organisation has been asking India for more graphic and gory warnings which cover 85% of the cigarette pack as against the present 40%. In April 2015, the Union Health Ministry had agreed to implement this but days before the deadline, the tobacco lobby had its way over the Modi government and the proposal was shelved indefinitely.

Pictorial Warnings Around the World

WARNING: Though real, some readers may find the images below disturbing.

Even though India continues to buckle under the pressure of the tobacco lobby, world-over 80 countries have more than 60% graphic warnings on cigarette packs.

From puss-oozing, mouth tumours in Thailand to skulls in Romania, cigarette packs around the world vividly warn of the perils of smoking. Australia has the world’s toughest restrictions on cigarette packets. They sell tobacco in drab, brown boxes without distinguishing features other than brand and product name.

India, on the other hand, is ranked at 136 out of 198 countries that include pictorial health warnings on tobacco packaging. This is lower than the 123rd position that the country had in 2012.


Do Pictorial Warnings Work?

People who smoke are two to four times more likely to get heart disease.The risk is even greater for women who smoke and also take birth control pills. (Photo: iStock)

Yes. Big warnings plant the first seed of doubt. According to WHO, nearly 67% of smokers in Brazil and New Zealand and 44% in Canada and Thailand wanted to quit smoking as a result of graphic pictorial warnings.

Warnings act as intervention, perhaps why policymakers urgently need to make warnings larger and more graphic because noticing the warnings is the first step toward getting smokers to think about and attempt to quit.


Major Cardiologists Demand 85% Coverage

More than one million Indians die from smoking-related causes every year.That figure will soar to 1.5 million in 5 years if more people are not encouraged to call it quits. (Photo: iStock)

Heart diseases kill 26% people in India and tobacco is a huge risk factor. What’s worse, tobacco related diseases are easily preventable but they cost India two times more than the costs incurred to treat cancers.

People must realise the high stakes of using tobacco, not just for themselves but also their families. It is only through measures like the 85% pack warnings, that we can reach our national target of 30% relative reduction of current tobacco use.
– Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India.

Tobacco kills 10 lakh Indians every year.

Immediate steps should be taken to tackle tobacco use in India. Strong control measures are critical at this time and we demand 85% warnings on both sides of all types of tobacco packs.
– Dr KK Aggarwal,President, Heart Care Foundation of India.

At present, pictorial health warnings cover 40% of the principal display area of tobacco packages in India.

Recent studies show that up to 94% of users of both smoking and smokeless products have no intention to quit. This points to the fact that our tobacco control efforts are not adequately highlighting the heinous effects of tobacco use.
– Dr H.K. Chopra, President, Cardiological Society of India.

While tobacco companies exploit the entire cigarette pack, including the cigarette, as a sophisticated communications tool, policy makers are far less creative.

Why doesn’t the government exploit the same techniques to dissuade consumers which the tobacco companies use to attract smokers? Since the companies stamp their brand name on each cigarette, why not put a health warning there too?

Here, I’ve come up an example of a cigarette carrying the words “Smoking kills”. Anyone listening?

(Photo: The Quint)

Would you fancy flaunting a cigarette if it looked like this death stick?

Must Read: E-cigarettes, helping smokers quit or glamorizing a dangerous habit?

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Topics:  Smoking   Tobacco   Cigarette 

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