Grim images of diseased lungs will appear on cigarette, bidi and gutka packets from December 1.
Packs of all tobacco products will have to carry pictorial warnings — covering 40 per cent of the surface area — with the message: ‘Tobacco kills/Smoking kills’.
The revised packaging and labelling rules for tobacco products were published in the Gazette of India on Friday and will include all smoking and non-smoking forms of tobacco, confirmed Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
“Pictorial warnings will not only remind the tobacco user of the dangers but also those around him/her. Children, for example, can become a very strong pressure group to encourage their parents to give up tobacco use,” said Ramadoss.
The warnings got the go-ahead from a Group of Ministers (GoM), including Pranab Mukherjee, P.R. Dasmunsi, Oscar Fernandes, Kamal Nath, Jaipal Reddy and Ramadoss.
Last year, the GoM dropped the idea of carrying skull-and-crossbones signs on packs.
Now, the tobacco industry has been given three months time to put up the pictorial warnings.
“Three months are more than enough as the tobacco companies have been informed about the proposal before,” said Ramadoss. Implementation was initially planned for February 2007. But it was deferred four times.
ITC spokesperson Nazeeb Arif declined to comment on the notification, saying the company was yet to study its details.
Other countries that have introduced similar warnings include Canada, Brazil, Thailand and Australia. In Canada, such warnings are said to have led to a 3 per cent drop in the incidence of smoking.
One in two men and one in seven women — about 250 million Indians in all — are tobacco users. Of this, 16 per cent are cigarette smokers, 44 per cent smoke bidis, and the rest use gutka, mishri (roasted black tobacco powder, applied to gums) and chewing tobacco.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says tobacco use causes 10 lakh deaths in India every year.