Global warnings for smokers at IITF

The exhibition at IITF showcases pictorial health warnings currently used in around 15 countries.

New Delhi: A picture is said to be worth a thousand words and if you are finding it hard to give up smoking, than an exhibition on pictorial health warnings at the ongoing trade fair may help your cause.

Organised by the voluntary organisation, Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY) and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), the exhibition showcases pictorial health warnings currently used in around fifteen countries including Brazil, Thailand and Pakistan.

"Pictorial warnings in India are weakest and most evasive. We want to show the people about practices in this regard in other countries and then it`s upto them to decide," says Dr Monika Arora, director, HRIDAY.

Around 40 nations use pictorial warnings on tobacco products to make smokers aware of the ill effects of tobacco consumption. Brazil changes the pictures every five months.

Such warnings were first notified in India in 2006 and since then there have been numerous delays and dilution in arriving at a stronger depiction.

"The truth is that the impact of the tobacco is dangerous. Even Pakistan has more gory warnings than India. We need such practise as they have proved successful in other countries," says Arora.

There is a set of three pictorial health warnings used by tobacco companies which include picture of a scorpion, rotten lungs and an x-ray of lungs.

"The current warnings are not concerned with health and are soft. A crab is linked to smoking world over but I do not know why we use a scorpion in India," says Arora.

Estimates say about 250 million people across the country use tobacco products like gutkha, cigarettes and bidis and by 2020, tobacco will be responsible for 13 percent of all deaths in India.

HRIDAY earlier conducted a study in Delhi, Uttarakhand, UP, Haryana and Tripura to test the effectiveness of existing pictorial warnings. More than 63 percent of the respondents said they felt the warning labels were inadequate in conveying the adverse impact of tobacco use on health.

A similar study was also conducted by Healis Seksaria Institute of Public Health, Mumbai, which concluded that the existing pictorial health warnings do not serve the desired purpose since they are not properly understood.

Organisers also plan to hold the exhibition in the Parliament House on November 24 to put forward the case in front of lawmakers for introduction of gory pictures on tobacco products.

Apart from the exhibition, opinion poll and interactive sessions are also being conducted to sensitise people against smoking. The results of the poll will be sent to PMO and the health ministry.