Government likely to further dilute tobacco control warning: NGO

January 22nd, 2009 - 8:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) As the Group of Ministers (GoM), tasked with fixing the deadline for pictorial health warnings on packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products, meets Friday, an NGO has expressed doubts that the government might further dilute the warnings following tremendous pressure from the tobacco industry. “We fear that after Friday’s GoM, the tobacco warnings will further be diluted to meet the demands of tobacco industry,” said Monika Arora, convener of Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control (AFTC).

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.

The GoM, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, is scheduled to meet Friday to take a further decision on it.

“It is a matter of great disappointment that every time the GoM meet, the decision on implementation of pictorial warnings on tobacco products get either delayed or diluted. The government has set aside the health concerns of millions of people,” said Alok Mukhopadhyay of NGO, Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI).

According to AFTC, a coalition on Indian NGOs working for tobacco control, their several requests for a meeting with the GoM have been turned down.

“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,” Arora said.

“With this delay, India will miss the deadline (in February 2009) imposed by the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to implement pictorial health warnings on tobacco products,” she added.

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