New Delhi: Civil society activists, international and national public health experts and tobacco control advocates today expressed shock at Union government's decision to defer the implementation of a notification for increasing the size of pictorial health warning on cigarette packets and various other tobacco products.
The deferment move comes in the wake of Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislations (2014-15), headed by BJP MP Dilipkumar Mansukhhal Gandhi, examining the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, urging government to put on hold the proposed notification citing adverse impact on livelihood of people involved in the tobacco industry.
"We are feeling very let down by this decision and shocked that the Health Ministry has revoked its decision because it may have a financial impact on revenue of tobacco industry and have overlooked their impact on illiterate and children," said Alok Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.
On October 15, last year, the Union Health Ministry had issued a notification as per which 85 per cent space-- 60 per cent was to be devoted to pictoral warnings while 25 per cent for textual warnings from tomorrow. At present, the space covered by the warning is 40 per cent.
Dr P C Gupta, Director, Healis - Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health said, "The argument given by Dilip Gandhi that new studies should be conducted on the health effects of tobacco before implementing proposed warnings, makes us hang our heads in shame.
"When the whole world has agreed on the health effects of tobacco, even the tobacco industry does not contest those conclusions now and the MoHFW has already published numerous documents describing health effects, a demand for further study, can only imply unholy nexus," he said.
Supriya Sule, Lok Sabha, MP from Pune, Nationalist Congress Party said,"I appeal to the Honourable Prime Minister that it is essential that these warnings appear on tobacco products as soon as possible as the new pictorial warnings will reaffirm Indian global leadership, projecting India into one of the leading positions for the largest tobacco health warnings in the world," she said.