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December 9, 2010 - Faced with major tobacco firms halting production over implementation of pictorial warnings (India - revised pictorial warnings on tobacco products will be implemented from December 1, 2010..), the Union (India's) Cabinet on Tuesday, December 7th decided that the current pictures will remain in place for another year.
(India - cigarettes and bidis manufacturers halt production seek clarification on pictorial health warnings..)
Till then, the ineffective pictorial warnings of the scorpion, lung x-ray and diseased lungs will stay on tobacco packs. The decision to defer use of scarier pictorial warnings on cigarette and bidi packs till December 2011 hasn't gone down well with civil society. The black scorpion on bidi packs and cancer-affected lungs on cigarette packets was to be replaced by a more graphic cancerous mouth in keeping with a ministry of health and family welfare notification. The pictorial warnings are to be rotated every year.
Tobacco majors have argued that they have large unsold stocks and must be allowed to expend these before the warnings are changed. They threatened to maintain the current halt on fresh production -- a move that can impact the labour intensive industry including cultivators. Tobacco companies have also demanded the duration of any set of pictorial warnings must be for two-three years instead of just a year. According to agency reports, the tobacco firms may now restart production. Activists accused the Cabinet of taking a "partisan stand and giving into the arm-twisting tactics of the tobacco industry giants such as ITC (formerly Indian Tobacco Company) and GPI (Godfrey Phillips India Ltd.), choosing to ignore the public health".
Calling the decision shocking and unexpected, public health advocates, civil society and tobacco control activists condemned the government for buckling under pressure from the tobacco industry yet again. Activists have strongly decried the arbitrary backtracking by the government and blatant disregard to the Supreme Court's directive of implementing the packaging and labelling rules, including the rotation of pack warnings every 12 months.
"This is yet another promise broken, leading to a complete loss of confidence and faith in the current leadership. Even the Supreme Court in the gutka case ruling on Tuesday pointed out that the government has been a mute spectator in the fight against the tobacco industry, whose products are creating a huge public health menace," said Alok Mukhopadhyay, chief executive of Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI).
Research -- published in the New England Journal of Medicine -- shows that smoking kills nearly 1 million Indians a year, or one in 10 of all deaths from any cause. Nearly 70% of smoking deaths occur at productive working ages -- and more than half among illiterates. Smokers of cigarrates -- that contain about four times more tobacco than bidis -- lose about eight years of life as compared to six years for bidi smokers.
References: Cigarette packs to carry same pics for another year, The Times of India, 12/8/2010; Govt draws flak for 'giving into tobacco lobby', Kounteya Sinha, The Times of India, 12/9/2010; Scarier pictorial images on cigarette packs deferred by a year, Indian Express.com,12/9/2010.
India - some related news briefs:
*India - cigarettes and bidis manufacturers halt production seek clarification on pictorial health warnings..;
*India - Tobacco Board warns farmers against planting unauthorized crop..;
*India - revised pictorial warnings on tobacco products will be implemented from December 1, 2010..;
*India - captions with pictorial warnings should use local languages..:
*India - pictorial warning will appear on every tobacco pack sold from June 1, 2010..;
*India - government set to ban foreign direct investment in tobacco..;
*India - despite tobacco control measure in place - tobacco sales increase..;
*India - still confusion pictorial warnings on cigarette packs..;
*Mumbai, India - NGO activists want closure of hookah bars..;
*India - gutkha and bidi companies NOT pictorial warnings..;
*India - cigarette packs with pictorial warnings are here..; *ndia - NO graphic pictorial warnings yet..;
*India - Still no pictorial warnings on cigarette packs..;
*India - pictorial warning on cigarettes and tobacco products effective May 31, 2009..;
*India - pictorial warning on cigarettes and tobacco products will be implemented from May 31 - no doubts about it..;
*India - will pictorial or graphic health warnings be implemented from May 30, 2009..;
*India - placing pictorial warnings on tobacco products delayed again...