New rule on stronger pic warning on tobacco products

A survey conducted by NGO found that no cigarette, gutka or bidi packets had strong pictorial warning.

New Delhi: A new rule asking tobacco companies to depict a picture of a cancer-stricken mouth on all their products from today has apparently gone for a toss.
A survey conducted across 50 retail outlets in the capital by an NGO here found that no cigarette, gutka or bidi packets had the strong pictorial warning.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had notified in May this year that all tobacco product packages in the country must carry pictorial health warnings depicting a cancer-stricken mouth, from December 1, 2010.

"A snap survey of 50 retail outlets was carried out by us this morning and this reveals that no cigarette, gutka or bidi packets have the new picture warnings," Bhavna B. Mukhopadhyay, Executive Director of Voluntary Health Association of India, said.

According to the rule, tobacco manufacturers and vendors will be penalised if the mild and ineffective warnings are continued on tobacco products packages.

Tobacco product retailers and distributors who fail to comply with it would face legal action with a fine extending to Rs 1,000, imprisonment up to one-year or both under Section 20 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA).

Such product manufacturers would face a fine up to Rs 5,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both on the first conviction.

"It is now time for the enforcement agencies within the government to ensure effective compliance and bring violators to book," Mukhopadhyay said.

"We had conducted an opinion poll on the effectiveness of the notified and earlier health warnings and among 13,020 respondents, 80 per cent explicitly stated that the new pictorial warning will be more effective in conveying the ill-effects of tobacco use," Monika Arora, Head of the Health Promotion and Tobacco Control, Public Health Foundation of India said.