85% pictorial warnings and curbing selling of tobacco in smaller packs both positive for public health

Dr Raghav Gattani, CNS Medical Correspondent
It is an important public health development that government of India has not bowed down to conflict-of-interest riddled Parliamentary Committee recommendations to reduce pictorial warning size and from 1st April 2016 implemented the 85% pictorial warnings on all tobacco products. Not only the size of pictorial warnings remains as directed earlier 85% but also minimum size of warnings has also been prescribed, which will help in stopping sale of tobacco in smaller packs.

As per the guidance to enforce Section 7 of Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003 issued by HRIDAY-SHAN, as per the new regulations, the warnings on each panel of tobacco packs should not be less than 3.5 cm (width) and 4 cm (height) so as to ensure that the warnings are legible, prominent and conspicuous. This will prevent sale of tobacco products in small and miniature packages which the industry resort to for attracting youth and poor consumers.

Rahul Dwivedi
"All tobacco packs will have minimum 85% of pictorial warnings and minimum size of warning cannot be less than: 85% of pack as well as 3.5cm (width) and 4cm (height). Both these are going to have positive public health impact" said Rahul Dwivedi who leads Vote For Health campaign.

Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, WHO Director-General’s Awardee said that pictorial warnings on all tobacco products are more effective than text-only warnings, especially in countries like India with several languages and widespread illiteracy. He appealed to Government of India to go a step further from pictorial warnings to plain packaging of tobacco products. Professor (Dr) Rama Kant said that plain packaging aims to reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products, increase the noticeability and effectiveness of mandated health warnings, and reduce the ability of retail packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking. Australia and Ireland are two countries that have already moved to compulsory plain packaging of all tobacco products to reduce tobacco use and also the rates of major killer non-communicable diseases, disabilities and deaths attributed to tobacco use.

(About the author: Dr Raghav Gattani, MBBS, Junior Consultant at Avadh Hospital and Heart Center is also the honorary Medical Correspondent for CNS - Citizen News Service)
1 April 2016