Plain packaging restricts tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text appearing on packages, thus eliminating the ‘badge value’ of all forms of tobacco product packaging.

Days after Australia became the first country in the world to have brought in plain packing of tobacco products, anti-tobacco activists in the country have urged the Indian Government to follow this health-friendly trend.

Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Panda this past Friday introduced a Private Members’ Bill seeking plain packaging of tobacco products in the country by making amendments to the current Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

He noted that the plain packaging of cigarettes was essential to reduce the appeal of tobacco use, especially among youngsters. “In our country, where more than one million people die annually due to tobacco use and the health costs of tobacco-related illnesses are very large, this proposed amendment to the Indian tobacco control law will reduce initiation into tobacco use,” he added.

Plain packaging restricts tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text appearing on packages, thus eliminating the ‘badge value’ of all forms of tobacco product packaging. Brand and product names are allowed only in a standard colour, position, font style and size in a pre-defined area on the package. Surveys conducted by independent researchers suggest that making tobacco packets drab and unattractive deters young adults and reduces initiation into tobacco use.

The Bill submitted by Mr. Panda stipulates plain packaging of tobacco products and it also seeks to increases the size of the health warning and the accompanying graphic to at least 60 per cent of the front and back surfaces of the package. In addition, it prohibits advertisement of tobacco products in warehouses and shops i.e. at the point of sale.

Speaking about the need and urgency to introduce plain packaging norms in the country, Mr. Panda said we need to learn from the developments in Australia and seek support from civil society.

Prof. K. Srinath Reddy of Public Health Foundation of India, an organisation working against tobacco use, said: “The tobacco industry uses attractive packaging and aggressive marketing to lure people into tobacco use. Australia is leading the way by introducing plain packaging as a powerful legislation to counter this industry tactic.”

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