New pictorial warnings MISSING on tobacco packets

[हिंदी] Although since 1st December 2011, all tobacco packs sold in India must be carrying stronger and more effective pictorial health warnings as per the new notification issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, vide Gazette of India notification (dated 27 May 2011), as per the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA 2003), many tobacco packets sold in Lucknow are NOT carrying these new powerful warnings, rather have the old warning labels.

The government notification came out on 27 May 2011, and tobacco industry had more than SIX MONTHS to implement the same – serious action should be taken against the tobacco industry and stocks flouting pictorial warning ruling should be confiscated by the authorities, said Bobby Ramakant, WHO Director-General's WNTD Awardee 2008.

In the past, our government has held the dubious distinction of deferring and/or diluting these warnings, not once but several times under immense lobbying/pressure from the tobacco industry. The Health Ministry said to the Central Information Commission in November 2008 that it is tobacco industry pressure that is not letting it implement tobacco control health policies effectively" said Shobha Shukla, tobacco control advocate who is leading the Indian Society Against Smoking.

"We must remember that India became a signatory to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in February 2004, and is required to comply with pictorial warnings’ protocols as per the global tobacco treaty. According to the WHO, large, graphic health warning labels on tobacco packages are an essential component of a national strategy to reduce tobacco use" added Shukla.

"Under COTPA 2003, statutory warnings were introduced by our government on all tobacco products in 2005. But it was evident that this measure alone was not sufficient to reduce the use of tobacco. Consequently, the government notified rules on pictorial warnings first on July 5, 2006. However, the actual implementation of these rules was postponed repeatedly, apparently because of pressure exerted by the tobacco companies. The first and existing pictorial warnings had come into being on 31 May 2009 and were ridiculously mild and ineffective.  So it will be after close to two and a half years that they will hopefully be replaced by more effective pictures of cancerous mouths/cheeks (on smokeless/chewing form of tobacco packs), and diseased lungs (on cigarette packs). As per the COTPA 2003, 40% of the front face of tobacco packets should have new pictorial health warnings every year" said Ramakant.

"When a large proportion of the population is illiterate, written warnings may be ignored, but not strong pictorial warnings. It is a good public health strategy which costs the government and the public nothing because the cost of the colourful package warning will be met by the tobacco companies. Also FOREIGN-MADE CIGARETTE BRANDS (such as Indonesia-made Gudang Garam) being sold in Lucknow MUST carry these pictorial warnings" said Rahul Kumar Dwivedi, who is the youth leader coordinating the Citizens for Healthy Lucknow (CHL) Campaign.