Cigarette packs to have pictorial warnings on both sides

Inclusion of larger and more noticeable warnings have a significant impact, says Harsh Vardhan

October 16, 2014 05:08 am | Updated May 23, 2016 04:06 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Union Health Ministry has issued a notification making it mandatory for cigarette manufacturing companies to carry statutory warning against smoking on both sides of a cigarette pack and covering at least 85 per cent of the packaging.

Beginning April 1, 2015, every cigarette packet will carry the statutory warning on both sides with pictorial depiction of throat cancer and a message in English, Hindi or any Indian language. “I have specified that 60 per cent of the space be devoted to a picture and 25 per cent to the legend,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Wednesday.

“Graphic health warnings using a mixture of pictures and words are part and parcel of every country’s policy on cigarette marketing. Many studies have established that the inclusion of larger and more noticeable health warnings on packages significantly impact life expectancy rates and lead to savings on medical costs,” Dr. Vardhan said.

War against tobacco A gazette notification amending the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008, was also issued on Wednesday. The Health Minister, who has been highlighting the perils of smoking, said it was very important to win the war against tobacco consumption.

“Not only are families being destroyed by the rising burden of oral, throat and lung cancer, but a disproportionate share of the country’s health expenditure is going towards covering tobacco’s effects,” he pointed out.

As per government data, the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India for people in the 35-69 age group was more than Rs. 1.4 lakh crore in 2011 and the cost of premature mortality was highest in the 40-44 age group for both men and women.

As per the report ‘The Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report 2014’ released in Moscow on Tuesday, India has slipped to 136th position in the list of 198 countries that warn smokers about the hazards of smoking through graphic pictures on cigarette packages.

The report says though India was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it has not complied with the minimum rules. “While many countries mandate images on both sides (all principal display areas) of tobacco packages, India is one of the few countries requiring graphic warning labels to be placed only on one side of the tobacco package, covering only 20 per cent of the entire package. There is strong evidence to suggest that tobacco users are less likely to notice the image if they are only on one side,” the report says.

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