Despite the Government order requiring all tobacco product packages in the country to carry the new pictorial health warnings from April 1, 2013, a snap survey conducted in the Capital on Monday indicated that “almost no cigarette, bidi packets or any other chewing tobacco products have the new picture warnings”.
As per the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notification dated September 27, 2012, three sets of warnings each were notified for smoking as well as smokeless forms of tobacco product packages.
Voluntary Health Association of India executive director Bhavna Mukhopadhyay said: “As per the Government order the new set of pack warning rules to be implemented on both smoking and chewing tobacco products included insertion of the word “warning” in red font and provision of maintaining a ratio between the vertical length and horizontal length of the health warning so as to ensure that pictures are not distorted with change in size of packs.”
A snap survey conducted by VHAI at around 50 retail outlets in Delhi found the compliance rate to be very low.
As per the Government order, the tobacco product retailers and distributors who fail to comply will face legal consequences with a fine extending up 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 have been continuously rallying against the earlier mild health warnings displayed on tobacco products. The tobacco companies have been given more than ample time to ensure the new picture warnings on tobacco packs. It is now time for the enforcement agencies within the Government to ensure effective compliance and bring violators to book,” added Ms. Mukhopadhyay.