Pictorial Warnings on Tobacco Packages

The Government of India, in October, 2014, by issuing a notification, had made it mandatory for the tobacco companies to display Pictorial Warnings on Tobacco Packages covering 85% of the main display area of all tobacco packs.

To make this order more effective, the Government had amended Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Rule, 2008 that came into force on 1 April, 2016.

Importance of Pictorial Warnings on Tobacco Packages

Big and distinct health warnings have displayed its cost effectiveness means in enhancing public awareness of the health effects of tobacco use and in reducing tobacco consumption.

These warnings also help in curtailing illicit trade and better tax administration because these products are easy to distinguish from those which do not comply.

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International Standards on the Pictorial Warnings

Out of 198 countries India is ranked 136 by the International status report on Cigarette Package Health Warnings, 2014. It is important here to mention that countries ranked after 143 do not exhibit Pictorial health warnings at all.

Till now, India’s neighbouring countries comprising Nepal (90%), Thailand (85%), Pakistan (85%), Sri Lanka (80%) and most recent entry in the group Myanmar (75%) have bigger Pictorial Warnings on Tobacco Packages than India (40%).

Scenario in India

Nearly five million deaths happen yearly due to tobacco. And the economic burden that the tobacco related diseases inflict is a staggering INR 104,500 crore.

The commonly used forms of tobacco, smokeless tobacco and bidis are poorly taxed and therefore are available at very cheep price; this makes them quite affordable and easy to get items, of course, of intoxication. The ‘pictorial warning’ seems to be the only solution here in case of such products in low income countries like India.

Global Adult Survey, 2010

  • 29% out of 62% bidis smokers, who noticed health warnings on bidi packages, thought of quitting because of the warning label.
  • 34% out of 63% of users of smokeless tobacco, who noticed health warnings on the package of smokeless tobacco products, thought of quitting because of the warning label.
  • 38% out of 71% cigarettes smokers, who noticed health warnings on cigarette packages, thought of quitting because of the warning label.

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