Vendors selling tobacco without 85% pictorial warning to be punished
Supreme Court had instructed all tobacco companies to increase the pictorial warning on the packets from 40% to 85%mumbai Updated: Sep 21, 2016 00:38 IST
Four months after the Supreme Court directive mandating a 85% pictorial warning on packets of tobacco products, the state health department has asked police and Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) officials to take punitive action against vendors who sell imported products that do not follow the rule.
The state’s Directorate of Health Services has sent a list of traders and pan shops, prepared by them and Tobacco Institute of India, to the Director General of Police Maharashtra and FDA.
In May 2016, after a 19-month long battle to stay the amendment made in The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) (COTPA) rule, Supreme Court had instructed all tobacco companies to increase the pictorial warning on the packets from 40% to 85%. While 60% of the principal display area needs to be covered by a pictorial, indicating cancerous lesions, 25% of the area was to be covered by a textual message, warning about the possible ill effects of tobacco abuse.
DHS officials, acting as an advisory health body which is also instrumental in planning large scale awareness program for tobacco control in the state, said that major hurdle in implementation of the rule is the imported cigarette packets which are straightway ignoring the COTPA act.
“Along with TII, we have prepared a list of at least 1000 traders and pan shops across the state which is not following the pictorial warning rule. We have already sent the list to Satish Mathur, DG, Maharashtra and Harshdeep Kamble, FDA commissioner, since we don’t have the power to take action against them,” said a DHS official. The list has about 103 traders from Mumbai who are involved in sale and distribution of imported cigarettes, not following the norms.
The officials also added that in order to control the tobacco use in the state, a new Tobacco Enforcement Cell (TEC) will be created, which will consist of senior health officials, police representatives, FDA officials and nodal officer from DHS for better implementation of the COTPA act. A meeting of DHS and state health officials is soon to be held where DHS is slated to make a number of suggestions to control tobacco abuse. “Most importantly, we are going to suggest stopping sale of loose cigarettes which completely beats the purpose of pictorial warnings,” said another DHS official.
Harish Baijal, Joint Commissioner (Vigilance), FDA, said that all the 21 enforcing agencies, needs to work in tandem to resolve the issue and complete enforcement of the act . “FDA officials, only last month seized stock worth Rs 13 Lakhs from traders who were not adhering to the norms. Only a joint and persistent action, can resolve the issue,” said Baijal.
How other countries warn tobacco users
WHO: Article 11.1(b)(iv) of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control specifies that health warnings and messages on tobacco product packaging and labelling should be 50% or more, but no less than 30%,of the principal display areas and aim to cover as much of the principal display areas as possible. The text of health warnings and messages should be in bold print in an easily legible font size and in a specified style and color(s) that enhance overall visibility and legibility.
United States: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 requires colour graphics with supplemental text to cover 50% of the front and rear of the pack and nine graphic warnings were released by FDA which are delayed by legal challenges.
Brazil: Warnings and graphic images illustrating the risks of smoking occupy 100% of the back of cigarettes boxes since 2001. In 2008, the government elected a third batch of images, aimed at younger smokers.
United Kingdom: In 2003, new E.U. regulations required one of the two general health hazard warnings must be displayed, covering at least 30% of the surface of the pack, including additional warning covering at least 40% of the surface of the pack.
New Zealand: By law, 30% of a packet’s front and 90% of the rear must consist of graphic warning messages. Images include gangrenous toes rotting teeth and gums, diseased lungs and smoking-damaged hearts.
Russian Federation: Text warnings will cover 30% of surface on the front of the pack and Pictorial warnings will cover 50% of surface at the back.