Sreelakshmi24’s Blog

where life is all about learning

Archive for the ‘tobacco pack warnings’ Category

India to implement pictorial health warnings on packets of tobacco products

leave a comment »

Cancer survivors speak out against tobacco and make case for stronger warnings

India has one of the highest incidences of tobacco use in the world. The World Health Organization has estimated that India has the second largest number of smokers in the world after China. According to the report “Tobacco control in India”, 800,000 – 900,000 Indians die annually due to diseases attributable to tobacco – 50% of cancer deaths, 40% of all health-related problems, and a majority of cardio-vascular and lung disorders in the country. WHO predicts that nearly one million Indians will die from smoking alone in 2010 and 70% of these deaths will be premature.

Every year, May 31st is internationally observed as World No Tobacco Day. This year, the World Health Organization has chosen on the theme of “Pictorial Health Warnings” on tobacco products. There is significant research to show that large graphic warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with tobacco, motivate smokers and other tobacco users to quit and to discourage non-tobacco users from starting. From 31st May 2009, all tobacco products in India (sold in the market) should have pictorial warnings on their packets.

As a party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Government of India is obligated to implement pictorial warnings as highlighted under Article 11 of the FCTC, which states that parties to the convention must enforce the use of health warnings which “should be 50% or more of the principle display areas but shall be no less than 30% of the display areas” and may be in the form of or include picture warnings. For most cigarette packages, the “principal display areas” are the front and back of the package. The warnings to come into effect on May 31 do not meet the FCTC standards to which India is obligated, and under which, India was due to implement pictorial health warnings from 27th February, 2008, more than a year ago.

Despite the delay in implementing the pictorial warnings, the diluted pictorial warnings are welcomed with mixed reaction.

According to Dr. P.C. Gupta, Director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, “The beginning of Pack Warning labels on all tobacco products from May 31, 2009 is welcome, but it should be recognized that the original set of pack warnings have been considerably weakened and diluted. We can only hope that when the warnings are reviewed every six months as per the provisions in the Act, they would be stronger and more effective as it has been adopted in other countries.”

Recently, in an event themed Voice of the victim held at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, cancer patients from across the country came together on a common platform to complain against the sale of tobacco in the country without any mention of the health hazards on any of the tobacco products being sold. They highlighted the circumstances under which they became addicted to tobacco, and the singular pattern that emerged was that the patients did not fully realise the impact that tobacco could have on their bodies and lives. This was mostly due to the fact that tobacco usage was glorified by the tobacco industry, and tobacco manufacturers did not provide any specific warnings to highlight the dangers that threaten tobacco users.

Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, Associate Professor, Head and Neck surgery service, Tata Memorial Hospital said, “The cancer patients who are speaking out against tobacco clearly highlight the vital need that pictorial warnings be implemented on tobacco products effectively, so that those who do not know the ill effects of this deadly substance can be made aware of it. There is nothing out of ordinary in the demand as the manufacturers of every product have to inform the consumers about the risk of the products.

Voicing his opinion on the effectiveness of the pictorial warnings, cancer survivor Mr. Deepak Kumar said, “It is a good start, but not sufficient. The pictorial warnings need to be improved. The warnings should cover 50% and that too on both sides of the pack with the picture of skull and bone on one side and pictorial warning on the other.”

According to another cancer survivor Mr. Pradeep Lahiri,There should be big pictorial warnings which show the reality of cancer and convey the message of anti-tobacco. These warnings should make the people feel guilty subconsciously and stop smoking. That is when the pictorial warnings would be effective.

The warnings in place definitely do not serve the purpose required of them. For one it is still unclear and worrying as to what the public would make of these images as there is no direct link for these images to the threat of cancer and other diseases caused by tobacco. Besides, the entire intention of issuing the stronger pictorial warnings covering 50% of the packet is to highlight the uneducated or unaware public of the dangers of tobacco. These images, on the other hand, simply do not match the standards required to highlight the grave threats posed by tobacco. Strong action needs to be taken to ensure that the effort towards implementing stronger pictorial warnings on tobacco products continues.

Advertisements

GoM meet on tobacco pack warnings: Will pack warnings miss the deadline again?

leave a comment »

The GoM on tobacco warnings is meeting on April 8, 2009 and further dilution or delay to pictorial warnings is expected. This is a great concern before the nation when the implementation on pictorial warnings is long due now and the deadline is very close i.e. May 31, 2009. This meeting is scheduled at the time when in the previous month General Election 2009 for Lok Sabha were announced and the Election Commission of India has passed the model code of conduct to ensure that  no impression is given or created by any political party  to influence the electorate in their favour. Hence, any kind of politically motivated decision resulting out of this meeting at this crucial hour is the violation of the this model code of conduct.

Also, considering the Honourable Health Minister, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss has resigned; convening such a meeting by the GoM will certainly have no one representing the concerns of public health and can result into giving likeminded outputs. The non-representation of the health sector in this decisive meeting will lead to biased decisions and favours to the tobacco industry. According to Monika Arora, Director HRIDAY“The GoM in its earlier 8 meetings has either delayed or diluted the effective pictorial health warnings notified by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on July 2006. The implementation of current mild warnings is continuously being delayed due to GoM’s intervention. This is a breach of right to information about the health hazards of the consumption of a deadly product.”

Further, the issue of implementation of Packaging and Labeling rules 2008 is subjudice before our Supreme Court. This case was filed before the apex court seeing the lack of executive will to implement the said rules. Therefore, further interference in the implementation of the rules by GoM would lead to legislative interference when the said matter is pending. According to Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Senior Director, VHAI,Any decision emerging out of the GoM meeting tomorrow that is likely to delay or dilute the existing rules will be a serious violation of the election code of conduct as it will gift windfall benefits to the tobacco industry and political gains to certain members of the GoM, who have lakhs of tobacco workers in their constituencies”.

Whereas, the Indian Tobacco Control Law (COTPA 2003) and Global tobacco control treaty signed by India, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) mandates that all tobacco products, including bidis, must display effective pictorial health warnings. Also, a survey conducted in four Indian States by Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health and Voluntary Health Association of India reports 98% of public supporting the pack warnings and 99% supporting government action to strengthen health warnings requiring them to be large and including pictures of all tobacco products. At this juncture, any of the Government’s decision in further deferring the pack warnings will not only dishonor its international commitment and people’s will but also undermines the health of its 1 billion citizens. According to Dr. Prakash C Gupta, Director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health“Pictorial warnings on tobacco products are intended to increase consumer knowledge of the deadly health effects of tobacco consumption, to encourage cessation and to discourage uptake.  In India they also break the linguistic and cultural barrier, in addition to informing the illiterate population (a large proportion of this segment smokes bidis) about the harmful effects of tobacco use.”

The issue of pictorial warnings has time and again affected the people working in public health as the persistent delay in enforcing the law to display pictorial warnings on tobacco products has resulted in no forward movement. It is ironical that the very same Government that has vehemently supported the guidelines on Article 11 of the FCTC (pack warnings) for the global community at the Conference of Parties meeting in November 2008 at Durban, South Africa is delaying its implementation on different pretexts in its own country.