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Warning space on tobacco packs: India behind several countries

Amid a debate on efficacy of pictorial warnings on tobacco products, an analysis shows that such messages cover nearly the entire packet in some Latin American countries and almost half in Thailand and Singapore as against only 40 per cent in India.

delhi Updated: Mar 28, 2010 13:21 IST

Amid a debate on efficacy of pictorial warnings on tobacco products, an analysis shows that such messages cover nearly the entire packet in some Latin American countries and almost half in Thailand and Singapore as against only 40 per cent in India.

While Venezuela and Panama have 100 per cent coverage on front or back, Canada, Urguay, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Iran have 50 per cent.

India is somewhere in the middle with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Malaysia, which have 40 per cent or above coverage of the total package, according to data released by Health Ministry. The total number of pictograms in use also vary. While Belgium has 42 pictograms in use, Uruguay has 23, Brazil has 29 and Canada has 16.

India on the other hand has only three namely the lung, scorpion and the latest one of cancer-affected lips.

As far as rotation of the warnings is concerned, in Singapore and Taiwan it is rotated every 24 months, in Australia, Belgium, New Zealand and Hong Kong every 12 months and in Brazil every five months, the data said.

India has not yet formulated any rotation policy. Elaborate scientific studies have shown that annually the death toll from tobacco-related diseases in India is set to exceed 100,000 by 2010.

Approximately 5,500 adolescents start using tobacco every day, joining the 7.7 million young people under the age of 15, who already regularly use tobacco.

There are World Health Organisation (WHO) reports suggesting that in the coming years, the global death toll from tobacco may rise to a staggering one billion and upwards.

India brought in pictorial warnings on tobacco packets in October 2008. The photograph of a cancer-affected mouth will replace the 'softer' pictorial warnings of scorpion and lung on cigarette and other tobacco products from June one.

In a notification earlier this month, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has zeroed in on the picture with a caption saying "Tobacco causes mouth cancer".

The picture was finalised after the Government in collaboration with NGOs carried out studies in seven states and came to the conclusion that only hard-hitting pictures can have any impact on people used to smoking or chewing tobacco.

The earlier pictorial warnings of lungs and scorpion were notified on October 2, 2008. The pictorial warnings had been launched in 2008 after a decision by a Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.