New Delhi: India is losing over one-lakh crore rupees to treat tobacco related diseases, a cost that can easily be reduced if strong action is taken on time. Implementing pictorial health warnings along with other tobacco control measures will cost the Government about five rupees per person per year, which is certainly an investment of a lifetime.
Large sized pictorial health warnings are essential for effectively communicating the deadly health risks of tobacco to youth and the predominantly poor consumers in India, who have low levels of literacy and limited access to other sources of health information.
Around 20 lakh youth initiate tobacco use annually in India, which is ranked a low 136 among countries and territories worldwide in terms of package warning size. Implementation of 85% size for tobacco package warnings would place India in a position of international leadership.
Youth health advocates have urged Indian policymakers, including the Prime Minister, Health Ministers and all Members of Parliament, to set a date for implementation of India's planned pictorial tobacco health warnings covering 85% of the front and back of all tobacco packages.
At a press conference jointly organized by the Public Health Foundation of India and HRIDAY, with support from the World Health Organization Country Office for India, youth health advocates highlighted that these large warnings will prevent youth from experimenting with tobacco products.
The delay in implementation of the 85% warnings has been caused by an interim observation of a Committee on Subordinate Legislation of the Lok Sabha, on account of tobacco industry lobbying, while reviewing the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2014.
With unprecedented support from young people, 4000 letters have already been submitted to the Ministry of Health urging implementation of the 85% warnings. Youth have also conducted a signature campaign with nearly 5000 signatures collected till date to support the timely enforcement of the warnings.
“We are making concerted efforts to reach out to our policymakers and demand urgent implementation of the 85% warnings. We have also launched an online campaign titled ‘Pictures Save Lives' urging them to give us an actual date for the implementation of the 85% pack warnings on tobacco products. This is our Call to Action requesting Indian Parliamentarians' commitment in preventing youth from falling prey to tobacco use. Youth advocates across the world have also joined us in our collective vision to achieve No More Tobacco in the 21st Century and we are connected through our activities online. We invite you to join us on our pictures save lives campaign page www.nmt21c.com to amplify our voice. Our strength in numbers can catalyse urgent policy action on pictorial health warnings,” said Devarshi Paul, HRIDAY youth health advocate.
Rahul Dravid, India's Ambassador for Tobacco Control, in a special message recorded for the occasion said, “I convey my warm greetings to all the young friends who are meeting today to campaign for effective pictorial health warnings for tobacco products. I fully support your cause, since tobacco products cause many dangerous diseases and kill over a million Indians each year.
It is essential that large pictorial health warnings are placed on all tobacco packs to caution current and potential users against these deadly consequences. I urge the Government of India to implement 85% pictorial warnings at the earliest, to help us move towards the vision of an India, which is free from the threat of tobacco. I am ready to bat for 'NMT 21C' as part of your team"