Govt releases new health warnings for tobacco packs

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The health ministry has released a new set of pictorial health warnings for mandatory display covering 85% on both sides of bidis, chewing tobacco and cigarette packs

New Delhi: Tobacco product packets will now come with scarier pictorial warnings, grim messaging and a toll-free telephone number for help in quitting.

The health ministry released a new set of pictorial health warnings for mandatory display covering 85% on both sides of packets of cigarettes, bidis and chewing tobacco with effect from 1 September in a notification issued on Tuesday.

For the first time, packs will come with the warning, “Tobacco causes painful death” written in white lettering on a red background. The words “Quit Today call 1800-11-2356” will appear in white on a black background.

Two images of specified health warnings as notified in the schedule shall be displayed on all tobacco product packages and each of the images shall appear consecutively on the package with an interregnum period of 12 months.

In rotation period for next 12 months, the warnings will appear in the same fashion. The health ministry had implemented 85% pictorial health warnings for 2 years from April 2016.

A recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17 released by the ministry revealed that 85% pictorial warnings on cigarettes, bidis and chewing tobacco packages manufactured and sold in India, have resulted in 92% of adults believing that smoking caused serious illness, and 96% saying that use of smokeless tobacco causes serious illness.

“Pictorial health warnings on tobacco products are cost-effective tool for educating on the health risks of tobacco use. In a country like India, where people use several languages and dialects, the pictorial warning transcends the language and in many cases also the illiteracy barrier,” said Ravi Mehrotra, director at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research.

According to the health ministry, an estimated 3,750 people die every day from tobacco related deaths.