Campaign seeks larger pictorial warnings on tobacco products

Wants 85 per cent of packaging to have statutory warning

Updated - November 16, 2021 06:59 pm IST

Published - March 07, 2015 12:00 am IST - NEW DELHI:

‘Lives Bachao Size Badhao’ (Save Lives, Increase the Size) is a public awareness campaign to support the move for a larger graphic health warning on tobacco products sold across India.

The prime objective of this campaign is to garner support through a petition that will be presented to the Central Government in March; signatures for which will be collected both online and on ground.

The petition, which has been addressed to J. P. Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare on behalf of oral cancer survivor SunitaTomar is currently available online athttp://chn.ge/1Dy6QQu.

“Last year in October the Central Government announced the new pictorial health warnings for tobacco products that have made India the global leader in pack warnings,” said Binoy Mathew of Voluntary Health Association of India, a non government organisation working in the area of tobacco control.

A notification was released requiring tobacco manufacturing companies to devote at least 85 percent of the surface areas of all tobacco products on both sides to graphically and literally represent the statutory warning.

Clear messages

Beginning April 1, 2015 every tobacco product will carry on both sides pictorial depiction of throat and mouth cancer and a message in English, Hindi or any Indian language.

“We are trying to involve as many people as we can in the campaign. If a huge section of society raises its voice in support of using bigger pictorial warnings, the Government of India will implement the new pictorial health warnings from April 1,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, Voluntary Health Association of India.

At present, India ranks 136{+t}{+h}in the Global Cigarette Package Health Warnings ranking, but this move would elevate India to the 2nd position.

Encouraged by the Indian Government decision on the new pictorial health warnings, even Pakistan’s Health Ministry on 11th February, 2015 announced the new pictorial warning which will cover 85 percent of the cigarette pack on both sides from the current 40 percent.

Till now more than 500 representations and over 4000 signed letters from women groups, youth associations, doctors, hospitals, self help groups, heads of educational institutions, voluntary organisations from across India have already been sent to the Prime Minister and Health Minister strongly advocating and supporting for the stronger/new pictorial warnings to be implemented on all tobacco packs from April 1st 2015.

Awareness crucial

Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, a senior cancer surgeon from Tata Memorial Hospital, where Sunita was treated, adds: “Even tobacco industry agrees that awareness is one of the best ways to control the demand of tobacco. However, they have used every possible strategy to glamorise their product rather than educate the users against its lethal effect. Pictorial warning is one of the ways government can reach out to every user in a very effective manner because ‘picture speaks thousand words’.”

Pictorial health warnings are meant to alert, encourage and support tobacco users in their decision to give up the use of tobacco.

It has been demonstrated that picture health warnings are more effective than text-only warnings, especially for people who are illiterate. It has also been demonstrated that the effectiveness of health warnings increases with size.

India has 12 crore tobacco users, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009-2010, which means every ninth Indian consumes tobacco. Tobacco kills about 10 lakh Indians every year.

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