Will the warnings be effective

Written by Udayan Lall | Updated: Jun 1 2009, 05:02am hrs
A little known fact about tobacco consumption in India is that although we are worlds second largest consumer of tobacco, our pattern of consumption is extremely unique. Unlike the rest of the world, where, on an average, cigarettes account for as much as 90% of the total tobacco consumed, in India cigarettes represent only 15% of total tobacco consumption.

The balance 85% of tobacco consumption is fragmented amongst a host of traditional tobacco products such as bidis, chewing, khaini, gutka etc which, to a very large extent, are produced in the unorganised sector.

As a result of this unique pattern of consumption a large percentage of non-cigarette tobacco products are sold in unbranded and unpackaged (loose) form. Consequently, such products will not carry the pictorial health warnings.

Due to the high taxes on domestic cigarettes, India is a large market for smuggled cigarettes. We believe that the demand for such cigarettes will increase since they will not carry the health warnings, and will, consequently, be perceived to be less harmful. Another outcome of the high taxes on domestic cigarettes has been the increasing and substantial availability of tax evaded cigarettes manufactured by a large number of small units. There is no guarantee that cigarettes manufactured by such units will carry the pictorial health warnings thereby putting the legitimate, duty paid, domestic industry at a distinct competitive disadvantage.

We do expect the pictorial warnings to have an impact on consumption, and coming at a time when the economy is going through a downturn, it is likely to be more severe.

The writer is director, Tobacco Institue of India

Stub it out

1924

Readers Digest published Does tobacco Injure the Human Body, the beginning of a Readers Digest campaign to make people think before starting to smoke.

1965

Cigarette advertising on TV banned in UK.

1971

Cigarette manufacturers in USA first agreed to put health warnings on advertisements. It was later made law.

1976

Worlds first lawsuit regarding second-hand smoke in USA filed. The office worker was granted an injunction to ensure a smoke-free area in workplace.

1988

First WHO report on the effect of smokeless tobacco. First World No Tobacco Day was also marked.

1993

The US Environmental Protection Agency declared cigarette smoke a Class-A carcinogen.

1994

International Non Governmental Coalition Against Tobacco founded.

2001

India introduces the Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Bill to regulate promotion of all tobacco products.

2003

The above bill becomes an act in India.

2004

Workplace smoking ban in Ireland resulted in cigarette sales decline by 18% later. Ban on tobacco advertising and promotions also came into effect in India.

2005

Smoking scenes in films banned in India. Another law required manufacturers to list tar and nicotine content on packets.

2007

Cigarette majors were to print pictorial health warnings on packs under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act.

2008

Smoking in public places banned in India.

2009

India film smoking ban lifted. Pictorial warnings on cigarette packets will come into effect from June 1.

Smoke screen

In Canada, 58% of smokers said the warnings made them think more about the health effects of smoking.

In Brazil, 67% of smokers said the warnings made them want to quit, and 54% said they made them change their opinion about the health consequences

of smoking.

In Singapore, 28% of smokers said the warnings made them smoke fewer cigarettes, and one out of six said they avoided smoking in front of children as a result of the warnings.

In Thailand, 44% of smokers said the warnings made them "a lotmore likely to quit over the next month, and 53% said they made them think "a lotabout the health risks.

World Health Organisation