Replacing the existing images on tobacco products, the Health Ministry has now released a new set of 85 percent pictorial health warnings for mandatory display on both sides of the packets of cigarettes, bidis, and chewing tobacco with effect from September 1, 2018. Government of India for the first time introduced Quitline number to be printed on all tobacco products.
As per the notification, two images of specified health warnings as notified in the schedule shall be displayed on all tobacco product packages and each of the images shall appear consecutively on the package with an interregnum period of 12 months.
During the rotation period, there shall be two images of specified health warning which shall appear consecutively on the package with an interregnum period of twelve months.
Textual Health Warning. – For smoking and smokeless forms of tobacco products, the word “TOBACCO CAUSES CANCER” and the word “TOBACCO CAUSES PAINFUL DEATH” shall appear in white font colour on a red background and the words “QUIT TODAY CALL 1800-11-2356” shall appear in white font colour on a black background.
The Health Ministry has implemented, from April 2016, large pictorial health warnings occupying 85 per cent on both sides of all tobacco packages of cigarettes, bidis and all forms of chewing tobacco products and have been in effect for almost 2 years.
India’s current international ranking for package warnings is no. 3rd in the world, as outlined in the October 2016 Canadian Cancer Society Report, Cigarette Package Health Warning International Status Report that ranked 205 countries worldwide. The entire world applauded this progressive step taken by India in tobacco control and saving human lives. Implementing 85 percent pictorial warnings was a landmark step taken by the Government of India. Shri J.P. Nadda was awarded by the World Health Organization for this major reform in public health.
The recently released Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) had put to rest all apprehensions about the effectiveness of the warnings, since 62% of cigarette smokers and 54% of bidi smokers shared that they had thought of quitting because of the 85 percent pictorial warnings on the packets. And 46% of smokeless tobacco users thought of quitting because of the warnings on smokeless tobacco products.
Pictorial health warnings on tobacco products are the most cost-effective tool for educating on the health risks of tobacco use. In a country like India, where people use several languages and dialects, the pictorial warning transcends the language and in many cases also the illiteracy barrier.
The 85 percent pictorial warnings on all cigarettes, bidis and chewing tobacco packages manufactured and sold in India, have resulted in 92% of adults (surveyed under GATS 2016-2017) believing that smoking caused serious illness, and 96% saying that use of smokeless tobacco causes serious illness. The findings also revealed that there has been a growing demand for cessation centres as 55% of smokers and 50% of smokeless tobacco users were planning or thinking of quitting tobacco use.