Enforce pictorial warnings on tobacco products, urges NGOApril 8th, 2009 - 10:31 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) An NGO Wednesday urged the Election Commission to direct the central government to enforce pictorial warnings on all tobacco products, including cigarette packets, as the repeated extension of the deadline was helping only the manufacturers.
United Patients’ Welfare Association (UPWA), which works for the betterment of public health, has in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner N.Gopalaswami, asked for the poll panel’s steps to ensure that the deadline is not extended further by the Group of Ministers (GoM) in view of the coming elections.
UPWA in its letter said: “The rules framed by the government were amended by the GoM from time to time at the instance of the tobacco manufacturers’ lobby.”
The NGO has requested the poll panel to issue appropriate directions “to restrain the government from distributing the state largesse to the manufacturers” and not allow the move to be further delayed.
Tobacco manufacturers, including those making bidis (the hand-rolled indigenous cigarellos), were to display skull-and-bones signs and other images to dissuade smokers and the order was to come into effect last year. But the GoM has extended its deadline at least five times and it was supposed to be enforced by May end.
The GoM headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was scheduled to meet Wednesday to take a decision on the controversial matter, but the meet was cancelled and no reason was cited for it.
“The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and labelling) Rules, 2006, were to come into force on November 30, 2008. However, the GoM extended the date to May 31, 2009,” Sadia Rahman, UPWA’s general secretary, said in her letter.
“After the notification of the election having come into force, the government of India and the health ministry is now again relaxing the rules further and extending the date of implementation of the rules to the advantage of and at the instance of the manufacturers’ lobby and other vested interests,” the letter said.
“For this purpose, a meeting of the GOM is contemplated for April 8, 2009. This is in clear violation of the election code of conduct,” it added.
There are 300 million people addicted to tobacco in India. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly one million Indians will die annually from smoking-related disease by 2010.
Former health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who resigned after his PMK walked out of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance last month, had campaigned hard to curb tobacco use in the country.
While he piloted the measure to ban smoking in public places, which came into force Oct 2 last year, pictorial warning in 40 percent of cigarettes packs was set to come into effect Dec 1 last year.
Although, the skull-and-bone logo warnings are also optional for the tobacco manufacturers to display, the other images are either of a lung or a scorpion - depicting cancer.
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