The government has taken a welcome decision to mandate that at least 85 per cent of the space on packets of tobacco and its products should be devoted to pictorial and text warnings against their use.
The rules concerning packaging and labelling of tobacco products have been accordingly amended and they are to take effect from April 2015.
The lead time is to enable tobacco companies to redesign the packets.
It is hoped that the message against the use of tobacco will be driven home more effectively with better display of the warnings.
Till now the statutory warning occupied only 40 per cent of the space on packets.
According to the new rule the pictorial warning itself should take up 60 per cent of the space and the textual warning 25 per cent.
The images also need to be rotated every 12 months. It is based on the principle that pictures convey a message more effectively than words.
An international convention on labelling of tobacco had laid down these guidelines but they had hardly been followed.
With this decision, India will be among countries with a strong anti-tobacco campaign and will occupy the first position, with Thailand, in the space used for warning.
The campaign is important in the country where one million deaths are reported every year due to tobacco-related diseases.
The cost of medical treatment is very high and unaffordable for many. These deaths and medical expenditure are entirely avoidable because tobacco does no good to its users.
The entire range of tobacco products like cigarettes, beedis and paan are harmful in various ways.
Their consumption cuts across class and age groups and most people find it difficult to kick the habit.
According to reports, the number of smokers among women and children is increasing in the country and this is a disturbing trend.
Anti-tobacco campaigns should be further strengthened and rules should be strictly implemented to persuade tobacco users to quit the habit and ensure that others do not pick it up.
Some initiatives have been taken like running anti-tobacco scrolls in films and banning of smoking in public places like roads and offices.
The ban, however, is not seriously enforced in most cities and towns.
The government did well to increase the tax on tobacco products as part of the budget proposals.
Price has a negative impact on tobacco sales but this is known to wear off after some time.
A continuous and multipronged campaign is necessary to reduce the consumption of tobacco.
It should also be directed more at children and young people.