GUWAHATI, Dec 17 - In a major setback for public health, the Karnataka High Court on Friday struck down the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 that mandated 85 per cent pictorial warnings on all tobacco products sold in India.
The current pictorial warnings on both sides of all tobacco packages of cigarettes, bidis and all forms of chewing tobacco products came into effect from April 2016 upon the direction of the Rajasthan High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court, and have been in effect for almost two years.
�We don�t still know what the Karnataka High Court order exactly says, as the lawyers present in Court are giving out contradictory versions about it. However, if the Bench has struck down the 85 per cent pictorial warnings, then this order is a major setback for public health,� according to Dr Ashok Kr Das, oncologist, Dr B Booroah Cancer Institute, Guwahati.
�It is critical to protect our youth from the dangers of tobacco and we must do everything to defend the Central government�s decision of 85 per cent pictorial warnings on all tobacco packages,� Dr Das pointed out.
The recently released Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) had put to rest all apprehensions about the effectiveness of the warnings, since 62 per cent of cigarette smokers and 54 per cent of bidi smokers shared that they had thought of quitting because of the 85 percent pictorial warnings on the packets.
And 46 per cent of smokeless tobacco users thought of quitting because of the warnings on smokeless tobacco products. Such tobacco control efforts have saved 81 lakhs lives in India as per GATS-2.
Ruchira Neog of Voluntary Health Association of Assam said, �It�s a very sad day for public health in India � these warnings were proven to be highly effective by the recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted by the Centre to prevent millions from starting to use tobacco and even getting users to think about quitting.�
According to MoHFW-WHO supported PHFI study, the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs 1, 04,500 crore � 12 per cent more than the combined state and Central government expenditure on health care in the same year.