Stronger pictorial warnings in tobacco ads from 1 December

NEW DELHI: New strong pictorial warnings are to be put on cigarette and tobacco packets and in advertisements with effect from 1 December this year in a fresh effort to dissuade tobacco users from consuming tobacco products.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has cleared four pictures each of lung and oral cancer that will be used. The warnings will be rotated every two years from December this year.

A new notification issued on 27 May provides for strong pictorial warnings for smoking (cigarettes, bidis, cigars etc.) and smokeless or chewing forms of tobacco products.

The notification has been issued because feedback from different sectors showed that the existing health warnings were not strong and effective so as to influence tobacco users to quit the habit of tobacco use. As there is high prevalence of smokeless tobacco use in the country and the consumption is more among the lower socio-economic class with low levels of literacy, ‘it is hoped that strong pictorial warnings will definitely dissuade tobacco users from consuming tobacco products’.

The notification was issued by making amendments to the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008.

The Principal rules were published on 15 March 2008 and subsequently amended on 29 September and on 28 November the same year, and again on 3 May 2009, 5 March 2010, 17 May 2010 and 20 December 2010.

The Government had enacted a comprehensive legislation to combat the menace of tobacco - Cigarettes and other tobacco products Regulation of (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, (COTPA) 2003 – which provided for a ban on smoking in public places, ban on sale of tobacco products to and by minors, prohibition of sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions, ban on all advertisements of tobacco products, and providing for pictorial health warnings on packages of tobacco products.

After a long legal battle, the Rules relating to Section 7 of COTPA 2003 which mandated pictorial health warnings on tobacco products came into implementation on 31 May, 2009. As India has also ratified WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Government is committed to implement guidelines and provisions under FCTC. Article 11 of WHO FCTC recommends pictorials health warnings as an effective strategy for reduction of demand of tobacco.

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