New Delhi: Around 38,740 signatures collected as part of a campaign backing the government's move to have new health warnings on packets of tobacco products in India have been submitted to Union Health Minister JP Nadda.
In addition to the petition 'Lives Bachao, Size Badhao', which was started by an oral cancer survivor, Sunita Tomar, representations were also sent to the Health Minister from global public health experts, Members of Parliament, celebrities, women and self-help groups, youth associations, hospitals, voluntary organisations and bidi workers' associations.
"It is shocking that the tobacco industry is providing misleading information to the government and pressuring it to revoke its decision (on bigger pictorial warnings on tobacco products).
"It is disappointing to see that for their vested interests and profits, tobacco companies and trade bodies are trying to tarnish India's global image," said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Executive Director of Voluntary Health Association of India.
The government on October 15 of last year had issued a notification giving tobacco industry six months to ensure that all tobacco packages in India bore pictorial warnings covering 85 per cent of the surface.
The new warnings reaffirm Indian global leadership and project the country into one of the first positions for the largest tobacco health warnings in the world, she said.
Countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have taken a cue from India and dramatically increased the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco packages, said Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society and also author of the report, 'Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report, 2014'.
According to the report, which was released in October last year, India had slipped to 136th position in terms of pictorial warnings on packages of tobacco products.
"India has demonstrated global leadership with its new 85 per cent pictorial health warning rule. It is essential that these warnings appear on tobacco packets as soon as possible. A picture says a thousand words. Pictorial warnings are especially important for those who cannot read," added Cunningham.
"Nearly 3,300 school students have written to the Health Ministry urging introduction of 85 per cent pictorial health warnings on tobacco products from April 1. Rahul Dravid, who is also the Ambassador for Tobacco Control, has already congratulated the Health Ministry for this initiative," said Dr Monika Arora, Director, Health Promotion and Adjunct Associate Professor, Public Health Foundation of India.