Sreelakshmi24’s Blog

where life is all about learning

Posts Tagged ‘anti smoking

Current warning labels on Indian tobacco products ineffective¬¬ – concludes an international expert on tobacco control

leave a comment »

India’s new warning labels on tobacco products fall short of the international standards for strong warning labels, according to Professor Geoffrey Fong, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, who is in India with his research team to meet with researchers at the Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health.

A world expert in tobacco control, Professor Geoffrey Fong made this conclusion based on research that he and his international team of experts have conducted on the impact of warning labels in a massive project across 20 countries.

“Warning labels that include graphic and clear images of the devastating diseases due to tobacco use are known to increase thoughts about quitting and to be used by smokers,” Professor Fong, whose research on warning labels has examined the impact of graphic warnings in Canada, Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Australia, compared to text-only warnings in the other countries, including United States, China, France, Germany, Netherlands.

In July 2006, India introduced new warnings on cigarette and bidi packs and on packages of Gutkha and on tins of loose tobacco used for paanmasala. The original law for picture warnings was passed in 2003 and called for graphic photos of mouth cancer due to tobacco use. The new warnings would also include skull and crossbones, which is an international sign of poison.

“The skull and crossbones is a universal warning sign that the substance or product is very dangerous,” said Professor Fong. “And this is true of tobacco products. For example, we know that between one-third and one-half of all regular smokers will die of a smoking-related disease. It is the only product that kills people when used as intended.”

However, due to extreme pressure from the tobacco industry in India, especially the bidi industry, the implementation of the law was delayed 6 times over 5 years.

Then in March 2008, in an unprecedented move, the strong graphic warnings that had already been notified by the Government in 2006 and 2007 were changedto be weaker. The widely understood symbol of Skull and Crossbones was replaced by a scorpion. The vivid colour photos of real examples of mouth cancer due to tobacco use were changed to a fuzzy image of a chest x-ray.

“Healis has been one of the dedicated organizations in India that has been actively involved in research to facilitate implementation of much more effective warning labels on tobacco products.” said Professor Fong.

But even these new weakened warnings were delayed in their introduction. And they were made smaller (from 50% to 40%), limited (from both sides of the pack to just the back of the pack).

Professor Fong commented on the power of graphic warnings in other countries: “Countries such as Canada, Brazil, Singapore, and Mauritius have introduced very powerful warnings that have helped motivate smokers to quit and prevent young people from starting to smoke.”

“The tobacco industry knows how effective the warnings are, and that’s why they try their best to prevent warnings, weaken them, and delay their introduction.” The fact that the warnings have been so attacked by the tobacco industry in India is a sure sign that they are afraid of the impact of graphic warnings, Professor Fong says.

Close to one million people in India will die this year because of tobacco use. And since the graphic warnings were originally proposed and approved by the Government 6 years ago, about 5 million people have died.

Professor Fong commented on these delays. ”We know that strong graphic warnings are effective in increasing knowledge, motivating quitting, and preventing young people from tobacco use. How many of those that died could have been saved by the knowledge and vivid displays on the warnings that show what tobacco really does to people?”



Advertisements

ONSCREEN SMOKING NOW VERIFIED TO HAVE IMPACT ON ADOLESCENT SMOKING

leave a comment »

Stark figures on smoking initiation after exposure to onscreen smoking, reveals US survey

In another step towards proving that onscreen smoking does have a definite negative impact on adolescent, and a villain’s smoking makes even more impact than a hero’s smoking; two studies were published recently from the USA.

A study to determine exposure to movie smoking in relation to smoking initiation among US adolescents was conducted by random–digital-dial survey on 6522 adolescents aged 10 to 14 years. Prevalence of smoking was about 2% among those with the lowest exposure to smoking in movies, steadily going up to almost 30% among those with highest exposure.

This study demonstrates, in a nationally representative US sample of young adolescents, that exposure to movie smoking has a strong association with smoking initiation and that the association holds within broad racial and ethnic categories and regardless of where the adolescent resides. It also suggests that, exposure to movie smoking is a primary independent risk factor, accounting for smoking initiation in more than one-third of US adolescents 10 to 14 years of age.

In light of the recent unfortunate comments made by the Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad that smoking in movies has little effect on children, these studies provide definite proof that exposure to smoking in films does impact the youth and influence them to initiate smoking.

In another longitudinal, random-digit-dial telephone survey of 6522 US adolescents, conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, current smoking status and movie exposure was assessed 4 times over 24 months. The adolescents surveyed were asked whether they had seen any recently released movies, in which smoking by major characters was identified, along with the type of portrayal. The portrayal was divided into negative, positive, and mixed/neutral categories.

By the 24-month follow-up survey, 15.9% of the baseline never-smokers had tried smoking. Within the sample of movies selected, 3848 major characters were identified, of whom 69% were male. Smokers represented 22.8% of 518 negative characters, 13.7% of 2486 positive characters, and 21.1% of 844 mixed/neutral characters.

The study clearly shows that smoking in movies and impacts adolescent smoking initiation – regardless of character type, which demonstrates the importance of limiting exposure to smoking as it is portrayed on screen. In fact, the study has also shown that negative character portrayals of smoking have stronger impact on low risk-taking adolescents; undercutting the often-repeated argument that smoking by villain in a film is ok.

“These are just some of the multitude of studies that have been, and are being conducted internationally that prove that depiction of smoking in films does have definite impact on the smoking behaviour of youth across geographies,” said Dr. P.C.Gupta, Director, Healis – Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health. “In light of such conclusive research reports, it is essential for the authorities to recognize the health risks that such exposure creates, and take necessary action to see to it that smoking in films is banned. The urban and semi-urban youth in India are either avid moviegoers or watch movies at home, and when they see their favourite stars on screen, whether hero or villain, they try and emulate this by beginning to smoke themselves. By curbing scenes which depict smoking in movies, a lot can be accomplished in preventing initiation smoking among youth” he added.

In India today, the movie-watching population – especially among adolescents – is in the millions, and since it is proven that any depiction of smoking on-screen has the ability to impact these young moviegoers and influence them to initiate smoking, the authorities need to take immediate steps to curb such on-screen depiction of smoking, and not pass such depictions in the name of ‘creative freedom, as is being done today.

Written by sreelakshmi

17 July, 2009 at 6:06 am

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.