India - pictorial warning will appear on every tobacco pack sold from June 1 , 2010..

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March 11, 2010 - A new pictorial warning will appear on every tobacco pack sold in India from June 1 and it sure isn't pretty. It's a picture that 98% people polled in seven states of India said will repulse tobacco users, in turn helping them to quit smoking or chewing tobacco.

The health ministry's latest notification, made on March 5, has chosen a gory picture of a rotting cancer-stricken mouth to appear on tobacco packs. In field tests in Orissa, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh by the Voluntary Health Association of India, 98% of the 734 people polled found the picture repulsive and perfect to help smokers quit.

The warning will cover 40% of the tobacco pack in all local languages with the message 'Tobacco Kills' and 'Tobacco Causes Cancer'.

Back in November 2009 there was still confusion regarding pictorial warnings on tobacco packs.

Pictorial warning was enforced on May 31, 2009 after the intervention of the Supreme Court. However, the pictorial warnings notified then were very mild and therefore found ineffective. The rules mandate that the pictorial warnings should be rotated every 12 months. (India - pictorial warning on cigarettes and tobacco products effective May 31, 2009..)

"Pictures with shock value will make smokers quit. Earlier, warnings were feelgood. While one depicted a scorpion, the other two was an X-ray plate of a TB patient's chest and a photograph of a cigarette stub with a cross sign over it," a ministry official said.

Experts say mild pictorial warnings would defeat its purpose — to scare away smokers.
"The warnings can't be soft. It has to convey the ills of tobacco smoking and chewing," the official said.

According to researchers, smoking in India is more common among illiterate men than those who had at least completed primary education. Over 50% of tobacco deaths occur in illiterate men or women, with 80% of them residing in rural India. "Pictorial warning labels, that can convey risks of smoking to the large number of illiterate adults in India who smoke, might be a particularly effective strategy," the official said.

"International experience has taught us that warnings need to be big and scary and colourful. Only then do they catch the eye and deter people. In India, only 2% smokers quit," he added.

Presently, 9 lakh people (lakh - unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100000), nearly 2,200 per day, die every year in India due to tobacco related diseases. About 250 million people in India use tobacco products like gutka, cigarettes and bidis. Over 16% are cigarette smokers and 44% smoke bidis. The health ministry estimates that 40% of India's health problems stem from tobacco use.

Reference: From June 1, tobacco packs to carry scarier pictures, The Times of India, 3/11/2010.

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