A snap survey seeking to gauge the adherence by tobacco companies of the mandatory display of pictorial health warning on tobacco packages in the Capital has shown that “though slow many tobacco brands had put the health warning on the packs’’.

The survey conducted by a non-government organisation Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) of 40-45 retail outlets around various locations in Delhi, revealed that several leading cigarette brands too have implemented the new picture warnings.

“The objective of the survey was to check whether tobacco brands have started displaying pictorial health warnings on packages from April 1, 2013 when it became mandatory for all packages of tobacco products to display pictorial warnings,’’ said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay of VHAI.

The members of VHAI team went on observational visits to various vendors and shops where tobacco products were being sold. The purpose of the visit was to find out as to which tobacco brands are following the law on pictorial health warnings.

Tobacco product retailers and distributors who fail to comply will face legal consequences with a fine extending to Rs.1,000; imprisonment up to one year or both under Section 20 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA).

Tobacco product manufacturers can face fines up to Rs.5,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both on the first conviction.

“With India’s growing tobacco burden of over 274 million adult tobacco users, the need for strong and effective pictorial health warnings had been growing and tobacco control organisations had been continuously rallying against the earlier mild health warnings displayed on tobacco products,’’ added Ms. Mukhopadhyay.

Stating that tobacco companies were given more than ample time to ensure display of new pictorial warnings on tobacco packs, she said: “It is now time that all other brands of cigarettes/bidi should implement the new pictorial warnings.’’

India ranks 123 among 198 countries surveyed on warning size and fulfilment of requirements for picture-based warnings on cigarette packets according to the International Status Report on Pictorial Health Warnings released last year.Tobacco use is the biggest cause of death, disease and disability. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India Report 2009-10, among the 34.6 per cent current adult (15 plus age group) tobacco users, 25.9 per cent use smokeless form of tobacco (206 million users). Out of this, 30.7 per cent are rural and 15.0 per cent are urban users. Among the 20.3 per cent of female tobacco users, 18.4 per cent use smokeless forms of tobacco.

“Health warnings are meant to alert, encourage and support tobacco users in their decision to give up the use of tobacco,’’ added a release note issued by VHAI.

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