VHA urges Dispur to ensure use of 85% warnings on tobacco packs
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, May 30: Plain packaging can do a lot which the government cannot in the prevention of tobacco use, and which is why tobacco companies are out to avoid the mandatory plain packaging of tobacco products.
On the eve of the World No Tobacco Day, 2016, the Voluntary Health Association of Assam and the State Tobacco Control Cell urged the new government at Dispur to strictly enforce the new 85 per cent pictorial warning rules on tobacco products and, thereby, also prohibit sale of loose cigarettes and tobacco products which are in defiance with the mandatory graphic health warning norms for tobacco packets in the country.
The World No Tobacco Day — is observed globally on May 31 — this year the World Health Organization is calling on countries around the world to implement plain packaging of tobacco products and help end the deadly tobacco epidemic. Plain packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco consumption and increases the ability to notice health warnings on tobacco packs. The Government of India has also come up with equally effective packaging norms for tobacco products with the introduction of the 85 per cent graphic warning rules on tobacco packets with effect from April, 1, 2016.
“In India, the recent landmark move to implement the new 85 per cent pictorial health warnings on tobacco packets from April 1, 2016 is a very strong and positive step taken by the Government of India and the onus is now on the State Government to strictly enforce the same at the earliest. Enforcement of the new pictorial warning rule will bring greater awareness about the serious and adverse health impact of tobacco use, especially among youth, children and the illiterate,” said VHAA executive secretary Ruchira Neog in a press meet here today.
State nodal officer of tiol Tobacco Control Programme Dr. Arundhati Deka said that the State Health Department has already issued an order on May 11, 2016 to the Drug Controller of the State and to all desigted food safety officers of all districts to enforce the 85 per cent coverage of pictorial warning on tobacco packaging strictly under COTPA-2003. Enforcement officers have already started their job of inspecting all godowns of tobacco products and during their initial inspection found that there were no tobacco products without the 85 per cent pictorial warning on the product manufactured after April 1, 2016, she said, and added that many tobacco products have been sent to the Regiol Tobacco Testing Laboratory, which is attached to the Regiol Drug Testing Laboratory, Six Mile for testing and for compliance of Section 7 of COTPA.
It is significant to mention that Union Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, KC Samria, through a letter on May 20, 2016 has requested all Chief Secretaries of the States, including Assam, to strictly enforce the new rule on pictorial warning with immediate effect.
Samria pointed out in the letter that it may be further ensured that the tobacco product packages not compliant with the new rules are withdrawn from the market latest by May 31, 2016, and to be allowed for sale only by printing, pasting or affixing the new warnings thereon covering 85 per cent of the principal display area, terms of the new rules with effect from April 1, 2016.
The VHAA is also pressing for banning sale of loose cigarettes and tobacco products in the state, including bidis, with active support from the State Tobacco Control Cell to save precious lives from tobacco mece.
Dr. Deka said that State Tobacco Control Cell has already approached to Government for issue of the order to prohibit the sale of loose cigarettes under COTPA 2003.
The ban on sale of loose cigarettes is in public interest, especially to save the lives of the students and youth who are found to be the prospective buyers of these loose products. Sale of loose cigarettes and other tobacco products also violate the section 7 of Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003, which mandates that only tobacco products with specified health warnings can be sold in the country.