Govt to launch anti-smoking drive

57 per cent males and 10 per cent females consume tobacco in some form

Rejecting reservations of tobacco companies, the government has ordered that the products will have to clearly display a scorpion and lung as warning which should cover at least 40 per cent of the principal display area of the packets.
Announcing this, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed serious concern over the increasing number of people who consume tobacco in one form or the other.
“It is evident that the consumption of tobacco products in the country is increasing in all age groups, making it a matter of serious concern,” Azad said.
The Minister said that imposition of law is not sufficient to create the desired impact and that it is necessary to create a “sustained multi-media awareness campaign to highlight the importance of quitting tobacco consumption.”
“Youth should be specifically targeted in this campaign as they are the future of the country,” Azad said.
“It is a matter of great satisfaction that one of the important items which is mandatory under Section-7 of the Tobacco Control Act 2003, which provides for mandatory depiction of Pictorial Health Warnings on all tobacco packs, is being implemented from today,” he said.
“Laws and rules are meant to be implemented. We will implement it seriously,” he added.
The products cannot carry any message that directly or indirectly promotes a specific tobacco brand or tobacco usage in general, the Health Ministry had said earlier this month.
The government order has been delivered despite stiff resistance from tobacco manufacturers.
In August last year, the government had asked cigarette, bidi and gutka manufacturers to display a skull-and-bone sign and a warning saying “tobacco smoking kills” on packets so as to sensitise public against consuming these items.
However, it could not be implemented at that time, leading the government to fix December one as the deadline.
The deadline was again missed after a meeting of Group of Ministers chaired by the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee decided to further defer the implementation to May 31.
He also quoted the latest National Health report which indicated an increasing prevalence of tobacco consumption in India, with 57 per cent males and 10 per cent females consuming tobacco in some form.
The Health Minister said approximately 50 per cent of all cancer deaths in the country are due to tobacco consumption and that majority of the cardio-vascular diseases and lung disorders are directly attributable to tobacco consumption.
The government’s step assumes significance as majority of the consumers of tobacco are illiterates or semi-literates. Pictorial warnings are very effective and sustainable means of communicating the health risks associated with tobacco usage to the consumers.

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