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Stress on need for displaying warning on tobacco packs in regional languages

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The new pictorial warnings on packets containing tobacco products, to come into force from June 1, may reduce the number of smokers, 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 that 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 those who do not purchase in packs did not get to see them, 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 mediapersons.

Influence of media

Though students were aware of COTPA, Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, the illiterate 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 companies also induced respondents to smoke, the survey said.

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

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.