`Law on anti-tobacco warnings ignored in two states`

New Delhi: Nearly two months after the deadline for printing harsher, coloured pictorial health warnings on packs of tobacco products, a study in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat has found that over 75 percent of products were still carrying the old visuals, an autonomous health group said here Thursday.

The harsher warnings were found to be missing from the products including cigarettes and gutka packets, said the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

As per the central government notification, the new warnings need to depict coloured graphics of mouth and lung cancer.

"The results of the study highlight that the tobacco industry continues to violate the law and we need to strengthen enforcement mechanism through inter-departmental partnership at central and also at state level," said Monika Arora, head of health promotion and tobacco control at the PHFI.

The new, harsher pictorial warnings were to be introduced in December 2011 with the objective of dissuading a larger number of consumers from using tobacco products.

Conducted in 12 districts in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, the study painted a grim picture on the visual warnings in the two top tobacco producing states.

The PHFI study said warnings were printed in English and were black and white instead of the notified coloured graphics. Overall, 73 percent of the warnings were in black and white colours.

"Evidence from the observational study conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat showed that 79 percent of the samples from 49 cigarette brands, 89 percent of the samples from 77 bidi brands were sold with the old pictorial warnings," the study said.

Tobacco, already responsible for 40 percent cancer-related deaths in the country, is expected to be responsible for seven of every 10 tobacco-attributable deaths in developing countries by 2030.

The study found that in both the states nearly 53 percent of 51 gutkha brands, 46 cigarette brands, 74 bidi brands, 44 gutkha brands and 39 khaini/zarda brands were found selling tobacco products with the old pictorial health warnings that is a violation of the law.

After two years of campaign by the civil society, the health and family welfare ministry approved harsher pictorial warnings for cigarettes and chewing tobacco products in May 2011.

According to a 2009 study by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, India accounts for nearly 274.9 million tobacco users - around 35 percent of the population.