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India should have bigger warning on tobacco products

July 25
20:58 2012

NEW DELHI: India should introduce plain packaging of tobacco products with increased size of pictorial health warning carrying gory pictures to mitigate the tobacco epidemic, according to recommendations by a task force, which presented a policy document to the government.
The Australia-India Institute (AII) Taskforce on Tobacco Control said that over 70 per cent people in a survey sought introduction of plain packaging of cigarette products with amendments in the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
The policy document – ‘The Case for Plain Packaging Made Plain – From Australia to the Indian People: Assessing the Socio-Political Scenario of Introducing Plain Packaging as a Policy Intervention’, said plain packaging legislation seeks to remove extraneous colors, embossing and misleading elements on tobacco packs.
It said the “badge value” of all forms of tobacco product packaging should be eliminated and suggested the brand and product names can be used in a standardized, prescribed style, font and color.
Supporting increase in size of pictorial health warnings on plain packaging with colorful gory pictures such as those of ‘cancer victims’, the document suggested that packaging of tobacco products should be grey in color which should be “least attractive”.
Rajya Sabha MP J D Seelam released the policy document and a related policy brief in the presence of Special Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Keshav Desiraju and WHO Representative to India Nata Menabde.
Nearly a million Indians die each year from consuming tobacco and with nearly 275 million tobacco users, India faces one of the largest public health threats in the world from tobacco-related diseases.
The policy document recommended that plain packaging could help bring down tobacco usage by increasing the effect of pictorial warnings.
“We have a huge young population addicted to tobacco.
Plain packaging, particularly the Australian case study, can be an example for India,” Shakuntala Gamlin, joint secretary in the Ministry of Health said.
She said, “Despite inter-ministerial differences, we have been able to flag the issue of tobacco control. We are moving ahead. Let’s see how plain packaging can be introduced.”
As per plain packaging legislation in Australia, packaging of cigarette and hand-rolled cigarettes cannot have colors, embossing, logos, brand images and promotional information.
Australia is the first country to legislate plain packaging of all tobacco products, enforced from December 1, 2012. New Zealand and the United Kingdom have also initiated similar discussions.
The document said despite advertising and sponsorship bans on tobacco firms, the package itself continues to be a potent tool to promote brands and lure new users.
Attractive packaging, images, colors, and logos entice impressionable consumers into addiction — many of them illiterate, and most of them young, the document said, adding that plain packaging also amplifies the effect of pictorial health warnings that depict the serious health risks of consuming tobacco.
Co-chaired by K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Rob Moodie, Professor in Public Health, University of Melbourne, the Taskforce recommends that India can introduce plain packaging of tobacco products as part of a comprehensive approach to mitigate tobacco epidemic.
The Taskforce includes tobacco control experts from PHFI, the Nossal Institute of Global Health at the University of Melbourne, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth). -PTI

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