GUWAHATI, Sept 21 - A survey conducted by the Voluntary Health Association of Assam (VHAA) has established the practical feasibility of printing larger pictorial warning on tobacco packets.
According to the survey, ninety per cent of the cigarette products sold across Assam comply with the new 85 per cent pictorial norms of displaying health warning on tobacco packets.
The findings are significant because it shows that, contrary to the claims of major tobacco companies that health warning cannot be covered in any manner when the pack is sealed or opened, printing the new 85 per cent warning is practically feasible on all tobacco products.
The survey, conducted by VHAA in association with the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) and several other local voluntary bodies, covered eight States � Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
The survey found that all the leading brands of cigarettes and many of the leading brands of smokeless tobacco and bidis sold across the State are displaying the new pictorial health warnings covering 85 per cent of tobacco product packages and complying with the law, as mandated by the Government of India since April 1, 2016.
It shows that 51 per cent of the smokeless tobacco products and 25 per cent of bidi products are complying with the new pictorial health warning rule in the State.
�The survey by the public health groups, which was done during June-July 2016, two months after implementation of new rules in India, clearly proves that printing the new 85 per cent warnings is practically feasible on all tobacco products. The evidence is indisputable and shows that tobacco manufacturers are capable of complying with all the provisions of the government�s mandate, which include a picture and the text message of warning that smoking causes throat cancer in case of smoking forms of products and tobacco causes mouth cancer in case of smokeless products,� executive secretary of VHAA Ruchira Neog said.
The survey in Assam was conducted by collecting samples of pre-selected cigarette, smokeless tobacco and bidi brands in Guwahati.
State Nodal Officer of the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) Assam, Dr Arundhati Deka, while lauding VHAA for conducting the survey, said that the health department and other enforcement agencies are trying their best to make 100 per cent compliance of the new pictorial health warning rule in all tobacco products.
�The survey proved that pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the pack area can be printed on tobacco products contrary to claims made by the tobacco industry that it is practically not feasible. A large graphic health warning discourages initiation by new users, especially children and youths and also reminds users of the ill-effects of consumption and encourages them to quit,� she said.
Dr Deka added that the study demonstrated that the Government of India made the right decision when it forged ahead, despite the tobacco industry�s resistance, and mandated 85 per cent pictorial health warnings to protect millions of Indians from the growing tobacco epidemic in the country.
�These new and larger pictorial warnings will allow people to see clearly the devastating truth about tobacco consumption that leads to death and disease for the majority of its users. Scientific studies demonstrate that larger pictorial warning labels on tobacco packages are an effective way to inform and bring greater awareness about the serious and adverse health impact of tobacco use, especially among youths, children and the illiterate,� she said.
The new graphic health warning rules also need to be applied to imported cigarettes and other tobacco products for sale in India. The sales effected through the duty-free shops within India, will also need to comply with these rules.