Indian Government proposes health warnings for tobacco packaging

INDIA – The Government of India has proposed adding additional health warnings to tobacco packaging, reports The Hindu Business Line.

The latest notification from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is an amendment to the existing Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, which have been in force since 2008.

According to a notification by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, one of the warning messages should read ‘Tobacco causes painful death’; while the other one proposed should say ‘Tobacco users die younger’.

Each of the two warning texts are to be accompanied by different pictures. The second warning message with a different set of pictures comes into effect 12 months after the first message.

The new regulation, named Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2022, also requires tobacco and cigarette packs to come with a toll-free helpline, Quit Today Call Today (1800-11-2356).

In its statement, the MoHFW said that the textual health warnings will be printed with four colours with a printing resolution of at least 300dpi.

The new proposals come at a time when the Asian country is the second largest consumer and producer of tobacco. A variety of tobacco products are available at very low prices in the country.

Nearly 267 million adults (15 years and above) in India (29% of all adults) are users of tobacco, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India, 2016-17.

In addition, data from the Indian Government revealed that tobacco is responsible for the deaths of more than 1.3 million people every year.

The most prevalent form of tobacco use in India is smokeless tobacco and commonly used products are khaini, gutkha, betel quid with tobacco and zarda. Smoking forms of tobacco used are bidi, cigarette and hookah.

The health risk associated with tobacco has pushed the Indian government to adopt and amend laws and policies over time to regulate the use of tobacco products.

These national laws prohibit smoking in all public places and workplaces, but designated smoking areas are permitted in airports, hotels with 30 or more rooms, and restaurants with the capacity to seat 30 or more.

Many outdoor spaces, such as open auditoriums, stadiums, railway stations and bus stops are smoke-free.

The laws also prohibit most forms of TAPS but the point of sale and sponsorship are allowed with some restrictions.

The policies together with increased awareness created through correct labelling and packaging are expected to reduce the rate of diseases associated with tobacco products as people get to know and understand the health risks.

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