Over 60 per cent packs of cigarette and 46 per cent of smokeless tobacco are complying with the Centre’s mandated 85 per cent pictorial warning requirements, according to a nationwide survey which asserted that contrary to claims of major tobacco companies, printing of the new warnings was “feasible”.
For Delhi, the study found that 54 per cent of the cigarette packs and 55 per cent of smokeless tobacco packs were fully compliant with all the labeling requirements mandated under the the law.
The study conducted by Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) and other health bodies urged the government to strictly enforce the new rules, saying health warnings on tobacco packages are a “direct and cost-effective” means of communication to inform about the health risks of tobacco.
“67 per cent of the cigarette packs were fully compliant with all the labeling requirements of the law – graphic, text content, location and size (85 per cent of the principal display area) of the health warning labels. 16 per cent of the bidi packs displayed a pictorial and text health warning label that covered 85 per cent.
“46 per cent of the smokeless tobacco packs displayed a pictorial and text health warning label that covered 85 per cent of the principal display area of both sides of the pack,” the study said.
The data was collected during June-July, two months after implementation of the new rules on April 1 this year in eight states – Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
Tobacco-related diseases kill about 2,500 Indians daily and over 10 lakh every year and it is estimated that about 5,500 youth and children initiate tobacco use daily while India has 12 crore tobacco users, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey.
“The data collected demonstrates that contrary to the claim of major tobacco companies, 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,” the study said.
During this study, a total of 786 cigarette packs were observed from 24 brands of four tobacco companies and 665 packs were observed from seven different smokeless tobacco products from 48 brands of 36 tobacco companies and 20 brands of non-identified tobacco companies.
the cigarette packs were fully compliant with all the labeling requirements of the law while 22 per cent of the bidi packs displayed a pictorial and text health warning label that covered 85 per cent.
“55 per cent of the smokeless tobacco packs displayed a pictorial and text health warning label that covered 85 per cent of the principal display area,” it said.
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 majority of its users, the study said.
“Even though some tobacco companies are opposing in implementing the new health warnings on tobacco products, the study results show that implementing 85 per cent pictorial warnings on tobacco products is possible and practical and tobacco companies are abiding by the law.
“The government must strictly enforce the new rules as health warnings on tobacco packages are a direct, cost- effective means of communication to inform the health risks of tobacco consumption to the consumers, new users and illiterate,” said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.
Scientific studies demonstrate that larger pictorial warning labels on tobacco packages are an effective way to inform users about the dangers of tobacco dependence, motivate consumers to quit, and prevent youth from starting to use tobacco, it said.
“The government needs to redouble its efforts to strictly enforce the implementation of the new pictorial warnings on every tobacco product sold across the country and must aim for a full compliance of the law by all tobacco manufacturers,” added Seema Gupta, Director VHAI.
The new pictorial health warnings also need to apply to imported cigarettes and other tobacco products for sale in India, it said.