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BBCI for larger size of pictorial warning on tobacco products

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  12 July 2015 12:00 AM GMT

GUWAHATI, July 11: India is home to approximately 27.5 crores tobacco users, including 47.9 % of adult males and 20.3% of females. Tobacco related death in India at present is 10.00 lakhs per year which will increase to 20.00 lakhs by 2020 as per WHO reports stated a press release.One of the most effective public health measures to inform the public about the harms of tobacco products is to implement large pictorial health warnings covering at least 50% of both sides at the top of tobacco packages as recommended in the article 11 Guidelines of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

On October 15, 2014, Union Government decided that the new warnings would cover 85% of principal display areas of tobacco packages of which 60% would consist of specified pictorial warnings and 25% would consist of the text warning. The current health warnings of 40% size on one side of tobacco packages are weak and ineffective. They do not communicate the desired message to users and non-users. Over 50,000 representations were sent in support of the 85 percent picture health warnings to Health Minister, from tobacco control advocates, students, doctors, cancer patients, bidi workers unions, women and youth groups, tiol and intertiol public health experts. However, in March 2015, the Govt. of India postponed the implementation of the larger warnings.

The Rajasthan High Court stayed the operation of the Corrigendum notified by the Central Government putting on hold 85% pictorial warnings on both sides of all tobacco products in India that were to come into effect from 1 April. The High Court directed that 85 percent picture health warnings will come into force immediately and will be enforced by the Central Government.

Evidence from the TCP India Survey suggests that Indian tobacco users are ready for stronger pictorial health warnings. On an average, 67% of smokers in the four Indian states are supportive of having more health information on cigarette packages.

The prevalence of tobacco consumption in the State of Assam is 39.3% against the tiol average of 34%. 51% of the adult in Assam are exposed to second hand smoke as per Global Adult Tobacco Survey India (2009-10), Assam. It is predicted that in a cohort aged 15 years and over, 43,98,608 people from Assam will die prematurely. 3.2 lakhs package of cigarettes and 6.5 lakhs sachets of gutka are sold daily in Assam. 34.3% of the children in the age group of 13-15 years in the North Eastern States consumed tobacco.

A recent MoHFW-WHO supported PHFI study, estimated that out of Rs. 541.2 crores on health expenditure in 2011 in the State of Assam, Rs.157.8 crores was spent for treatment of tobacco related diseases.

Research shows that effective warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with smoking and can influence future decisions about smoking. Large and graphic warning labels can motivate smokers to quit, discourage non-smokers from starting, and keep ex-smokers from starting again. If pictorial warnings can create awareness of all the harmful effects of tobacco consumption even among a large chunk of the educated population, the benefits will be tremendously high in the case of poor, illiterate people. Pictorial warnings will turn out to be the biggest deterrent in the case of children and young, new users, and current users are very likely to reduce consumption and even quit smoking.

Tobacco related diseases kill about 2500 Indians daily. And it is estimated that about 5500 youth and children (as young as 8 years old), initiate tobacco use daily.

Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute, State Tobacco Control Cell, District Tobacco Control Cell - Kamrup Metro and Jorhat District, Tobacco Advocacy Group Mukti are working very hard for implementation of COTPA in the State of Assam.

Considering the above development, Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute fervently appeals the Govt. of Assam to increase the size of the pictorial warnings on the packages of tobacco products. It further requests the Govt. of Assam to increase VAT on all tobacco products. It has been shown that a 10% increase in price in tobacco products in India is associated with decrease in consumption of cigarettes by 7%, bidi 9.1% and smokeless tobacco products by 5%.

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