New Delhi: Cigarette and bidi manufacturers may soon have to declare tar and nicotine content on their packets, with the government setting in motion the process of establishing tobacco testing laboratories.
"Five laboratories are being set up for testing tobacco products and are expected to be launched soon," a senior health department official said.
Section 7(5) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003 (COTPA) mandates the labelling of nicotine and tar content on packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The legislation was enacted in 2003, the section was not notified in absence of adequate testing facilities for tobacco productsied.
"The cigarettes and bidi manufacturers are not bound to declare the level of ingredients on their products which otherwise could make them less appealing," sources in the Health Ministry said.
These labs would check for nicotine, ammonia and carbon monoxide for which the WHO's TobLabNet has already established Standard Operating Precedures (SOPs).
A project proposal identifying equipment, manpower and budget requirements for the labs has been finalized by the ministry.
According to the World Health Organization, cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals of which 70 are carcinogenic or cancer-causing agents.
India has close to 27.5 crore tobacco users of whom more than 10 lakh die from its ill effects every year. A majority of them (21 per cent) use smokeless products like gutkha, zarda and khaini, whereas 9 per cent smoke and nearly 5 per cent use both, according to the government data.