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Worry over HC order on warning on tobacco packs

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 Dec 2017 12:00 AM GMT

GUWAHATI, Dec 17: In a major setback for public health, the Kartaka High Court on Friday struck down the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2014 that mandated 85 per cent pictorial warnings on all tobacco products sold in India.

The current pictorial warnings on both sides of all tobacco packages of cigarettes, bidis and all forms of chewing tobacco products came into effect from April 2016 upon the direction of Rajasthan High Court and subsequently Supreme Court of India and have been in effect for almost two years.

“We don’t still know what Friday’s Kartaka High Court order exactly says as the lawyers present in the Court are giving out contradictory versions about it. However, if the bench has struck down the 85% pictorial warnings, then this order is a major setback for public health. It is critical to protect our youth from the dangers of tobacco and we must do everything to defend the government’s decision of 85 per cent pictorial warnings on all tobacco packages,” said Dr. Ashok Kumar Das, an oncologist, Dr. B. Booroah Cancer Institute, Guwahati.

The recently released Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) had put to rest all apprehensions about the effectiveness of the warnings, since 62% of cigarette smokers and 54% of bidi smokers shared that they had thought of quitting because of the 85 per cent pictorial warnings on the packets.

It is sad that the High Court of Kartaka not only quashed these warnings covering 85% of display area of all tobacco packages, but also directed earlier warnings covering only 20% of display area to be implemented. This will result in India’s global ranking for pictorial warnings to revert back to 106th in the world from its current 3rd position.

“The High Court of Kartaka is said to have passed an order on Friday striking down the mandatory 85% pictorial warnings on tobacco packs. Taking the order to be what is reported in some section of the media, Mr. rendra Modi’s ambitious goal of leading the world in fight against tobacco takes a massive body blow today. With 85% pictorial warnings, India was No.3 in the world but this judgment will push India to 106thin the world,” said Kartaka High Court and Supreme Court advocate KV Dhanjay.

Ruchira Neog of Voluntary Health Association of Assam said: “It’s a very sad day for public health in India - these warnings were proven to be highly effective by the recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted by Government of India to prevent millions from starting to use tobacco and even getting users to think about quitting”.

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