The new pictorial warnings to come into effect from June 1 may reduce the number of smokers in the country provided the messages are printed in local languages, according to Tamil Nadu Voluntary Health Association, a non-governmental organisation.

According to survey results presented by volunteers of the Association here on Wednesday, more people felt the pictures of a diseased mouth illustrated the message clearly.

The earlier illustrations of the scorpion and a photograph of the lung were mild and many did not see the photographs as they bought one or two cigarettes only at a time, the survey found. However, the message that tobacco use is harmful had reached children in private and government-run schools and colleges, the Association representatives told reporters.

Though students were aware of COTPA - Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, the illiterate population relied largely on electronic media for information. More youngsters also said that they were influenced to try smoking as they saw film stars do it onscreen. Promotional offers and freebies from the company also induced the respondents to smoke, the survey revealed.

Surgical oncologist C.S. Mani of Madras Cancer Care Foundation said from 2010, an estimated 10 lakh Indians are expected to die of tobacco-induced complications. Citing a study conducted by the American and Canadian government, he said, until last year the estimate was nine lakh Indians would die of smoking. But the study estimated that from this year an additional one lakh people will die due to tobacco use.

Persons who use tobacco commonly suffer from cancers of tongue, throat, mouth or voice box, he said. “Despite surgery they live with disability. A comparative study of smokers in three nations over a period of three years found that in Indians smoking increased deaths and disabilities three times more. This is because of poor sanitation and nutritional level of the population,” he said.

“Smoking is a chronic disease. Some treatments include using nicotine patches to wean patients and prevent withdrawal symptoms. The treatment lasts about six months. Some others have psychological association with cigarettes. With counselling they can be weaned away,” he said.