Pictorial Health Warnings on all Tobacco Products in India from May 31, 2009

Pictorial Health Warnings on all Tobacco Products in India from May 31, 2009

India would be joining the league of public health champions by implementing pictorial health warning on all tobacco product packages from May 31, 2009, which also coincides with World No Tobacco Day and its theme “Show the Truth, Picture Warnings Saves Lives”.

Pictorial health warning labels effectively communicate the risks of tobacco use. Extensive research from across the globe has established that effective health warnings increase knowledge about risks associated with tobacco use and can decrease intentions to use tobacco among vulnerable youth and persuade tobacco users to quit. Graphic warnings have a greater impact than text-only ones and can be recognized by low-literacy audiences and children-two vulnerable population groups. The warnings have been introduced in several developing and countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Chile, South Africa and others.

According to Ms. Monika Arora, Director-HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth), a member NGO of AFTC (Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control), engaged in youth centric tobacco control awareness and advocacy campaigns, and Convenor AFTC- “To save lives of millions of people from tobacco related deaths and diseases, AFTC has been instrumental in undertaking collaborative advocacy campaign with Parliamentarians at the center for effective implementation of pictorial health warnings on all tobacco products. As a run up to the World No Tobacco Day, which also coincides with India’s deadline to implement pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, AFTC has undertaken a concerted advocacy campaign in 12 states of India to advocate this issue at the state level by interacting with policy makers, opinion makers and general public. AFTC is advocating for support from these important stakeholders at each state level to support effective implementation of pictorial health warnings in India through effective enforcement and monitoring procedures and emphasizing the need for stronger, field tested health warnings in the next round due in May 2010.”

Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS) on behalf of a coalition of 56 pan-India organizations working for tobacco control in India, the AFTC, has released an information package to state level policy makers, opinion makers and leading regional newspapers. This package comprises of cards with pertinent information regarding burden caused by tobacco in India, international obligations and global best practices and also scientific data that pictorial health warnings have proved to be in interest of public health, in the countries wherever they have been implemented.

The intent of the AFTC advocacy campaign is to support the effective implementation of the current notified warnings as well as to implement stronger warnings in the next round. The present set of notified warnings are mild, diluted (occupies 40% of the front panel) and moreover they are not field tested. India requires stronger and field tested warnings to reduce tobacco related deaths and diseases.