Pictorial health warnings must on tobacco products: surveyFebruary 2nd, 2009 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) The government may be delaying the deadline for implementing pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, but a whopping 99 percent of Indians living in metros believe stricter warning labels on tobacco products are a must to effectively communicate the dangers of tobacco use, says a survey. “Nearly 99 percent (of the people) support the government action to improve the health warning labels on tobacco products thus requiring them to be larger and include pictures to better communicate the dangers of tobacco use,” said Binoy Matthew of NGO Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), which conducted the survey released Sunday.
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. Since a large number of illiterate population form the chunk of bidi smokers, pictorial warnings cut across linguistic and cultural barriers.
“The government is under pressure, not only from the bidi industry, but also from other interested parties, to weaker pictorial warnings on tobacco products,” said Matthew.
The government has formed a Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, tasked with fixing the deadline for pictorial health warnings on packets on tobacco products. The GoM is to meet Tuesday to take a decision regarding the matter.
According to the survey, nearly three out of four respondents disagreed with the decision to delay the stronger health warnings on tobacco products.
“Over 70 percent people in India feel that government should immediately implement pictorial warning on tobacco products. The overall results reflect immense support for strong pictorial health warnings that should be implemented immediately on all tobacco products without any further delay,” he said.
The survey was conducted using a sample of 1,026 people between the age group of 15-64 in four metros - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata - in the month of December. The sample had an equal number of men and women and majority of them belonged to the lower and middle income group.
A majority of respondents also agreed that the government should mandate health warnings on bidi packets also apart from cigarette packs.
“The GoM looking into the matter decided Nov 24 to defer the implementation of pictorial warning from Nov 30, 2008 to May 31, 2009. With this step, it conveniently deferred the decision in favour of the tobacco companies till the upcoming parliamentary elections are over,” said Monika Arora, convener of Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control (AFTC).
According to Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), India records about 800,000 tobacco deaths every year with 2,200 deaths per day.
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