New Delhi: Packets of tobacco products will have to carry new harsher pictorial warnings from December 1 as the government on Saturday came out with separate sets of gory
graphics of cancer-affected lungs and mouth for smoking and smokeless forms of tobacco.
The warnings will be rotated every two years instead of the existing duration of one year, apparently in keeping with a demand from the tobacco industry.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a gazette notification on new pictorial warnings, which have come after prolonged delay. There are two existing
warnings like scorpion and damaged lungs for cigarettes while a stricter one was to be depicted from December one, 2010.
This was also for the first time that separate harsher pictorial warnings have been designated for smokeless tobacco like gutka. Earlier this week, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had said warnings will be stronger in case of chewing tobacco as it has been found more harmful than smoking.
Azad had said the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India in 2009-2010 found out that chewing tobacco are more widely used and causing more mouth cancers.
"A set of four pictures each of depicting lung and oral cancer have been notified for smoking (cigarettes, bidis, cigars) and smokeless or chewing forms of tobacco products.
These will come into effect from December 1," a Health Ministry official said.
For cigarettes and bidis, the ministry has notified pictures of blackened lungs and a side face depicting cancer affected bloodied mouth while for smokeless tobacco, pictures
of bloodied mouth and gums have been selected.
"There was feedback from different sectors that the existing health warnings are not so effective to influence tobacco users to quit the habit. As there is high prevalence of smokeless tobacco use in the country and the consumption is more among the lower socio-economic class with low levels of literacy, it is hoped that strong pictorial warnings will dissuade them," an official said.
The increase in rotation period is significant as tobacco companies had made representations to the Health Ministry requesting for increasing the number of years for implementing particular pictograms from one year to two to three years at least. They had said otherwise they cannot sell existing cigarette stock with retailers and incur huge losses.
The gazette notification which amends the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008, was issued yesterday, four days before `World No Tobacco Day` which is observed around the world on May 31.
The government had enacted a comprehensive legislation to combat the menace of tobacco -- Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Regulation of (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and
Distribution) Act, (COTPA), 2003.
Besides providing for ban on smoking in public places, ban on sale of tobacco products to and by minors, it also provided for pictorial health warnings on tobacco packets.
After a long legal battle, the rules relating to Section 7 of COTPA, 2003, which mandates pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, came into implementation on May 31, 2009.
India has also ratified WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which recommends pictorial warnings as an effective strategy for tobacco consumption reduction.