Activists cry foul as picture warning on tobacco packs is deferred

November 26th, 2008 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Anbumani RamadossNew Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS) Activists associated with the health ministry and experts have cried foul and termed as “politically motivated” the government decision to defer making pictorial warnings on tobacco product packets mandatory.The central government has defered the implementation of the proposal from Nov 30 to May 1 next year.

“The decision to defer and unduly delay the mandatory placement of pictorial health warnings on tobacco products is a cynical abdication of governmental responsibility to protect people’s health by providing them the much-required information on the deadly effects of tobacco consumption,” said K. Srinath Reddy, an independent advisor to the health ministry on curbing tobacco use in India.

The Group of Ministers (GoM) under the leadership of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who met Monday, decided to defer the implementation of the rule on pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packages.

According to health ministry sources, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss met Mukherjee last week before the GoM meeting earlier this week.

Activists and experts said that the decision is “very unfortunate” and has “appalled the public health community” across the country.

They said the government is failing in performing its important duty to provide essential information to make Indian consumers aware of the effects of tobacco, particularly to the vulnerable poor and the illiterate.

Bhavna B. Mukhopadhyay, director of the Voluntary Health Association of India, said: “Since the tobacco industry sells a product that kills one million people in India annually, its interests will always be in conflict with the nation’s public health and economic aspirations.”

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) imposes a time-bound obligation on each of its signatory parties, including India, to implement pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packages within three years of its coming into force.

The deadline for India to implement pictorial health warning was Feb 27, 2008.

P.C. Gupta, another activist and expert of the Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control, said the news of postponement of implementation of pictorial warnings was most unfortunate - especially because it came days after 160 countries including India adopted a resolution to fight against industry interference of tobacco control.

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