New Delhi: They say a
picture is worth a thousands words. But if the opinion of health
activists - and many youngsters - is anything to go by, the new
set of pictorial warnings for tobacco products are not enough to
deter those addicted to the lethal habit.
"It is certainly better than the previous warnings that had hazy
pictures of shrunken lungs. But this alone is not going to help as
the notification has to be bolstered by many other actions in the
anti-tobacco campaign," Pankaj Chaturvedi, associate professor of
head and neck cancer department at Mumbai's Tata Memorial Hospital
told IANS over phone.
After two years of campaigning and nudging by the civil society
groups, the health and family welfare ministry Saturday approved
harsher pictorial warnings for cigarettes and chewing tobacco
products to be implemented from December this year.
The warnings will carry gory pictures of mouth and lung cancer on
smoke packets and non-smoke pouches. They will be rotated every
According to a 2009 study by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey
(GATS), India accounts for nearly 274.9 million tobacco users --
around 35 percent of the population.
Chaturvedi, who initiated the nationwide 'Voice-of-Victims'
campaign against tobacco, said: "Firstly the pictures issued for
smoking are very mild as compared to the pictures for gutka or
chewing tobacco, then the rotation should be within a period of
six months so that people are able to know multiple adverse
effects of smoking."
Experts believe that steps need to be taken to improve low public
awareness, deter strong industry lobbies, and for stringent
"Now that the first important measure has been taken, it should be
accompanied by raising taxes on cigarettes and gutka and raising
public awareness about the ill-effects of tobacco at different
stages under various age groups," said Monika Arora, senior
director at Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth
(HRIDAY), an NGO.
Noting that gutka in plastic sachets had been banned, she added:
"There should also be a crackdown on those violating the rules to
ensure that the laws are not just made on paper."
Youngsters, however, feel that the pictures shown are the effect
of long and constant tobacco use.
"What has been shown is glorified. It is probably something that
happens with long and constant smoking or even gutka use, not when
you smoke just twice a day," said 24-year-old Rahul Kaul, who
works with a multinational company in Gurgaon.
Shubham Tripathi, 22, an engineering student, said: "On seeing
these warnings, the thought of harm will strike once, but
obviously it will not overpower the strong urge that smokers
Chaturvedi feels the reaction from the youth is very justified as
the change needs to happen differently on the basis of age groups.
"Over 50 percent of oral cancer cases we see daily come in late
stages, so the warnings cannot be termed generic. What is required
is a quick market survey, and then warnings aimed at different
target groups... like you can show stained teeth for early users,"
Tobacco, already responsible for 40 percent cancer-related deaths
in the country, is expected to be responsible for seven of every
10 tobacco-attributable deaths in developing countries by 2030.
"The only way to bring down mortality rate of oral and neck cancer
is by preparing a combination of strategies for target groups such
as women, children, men, and teenagers," Chaturvedi explained.
The four new pictorial warnings on smoking tobacco packs are
comparatively milder, three of them showing X-ray depiction of
human lung with cancer. The fourth shows mouth cancer in an
The pictures on chewing tobacco products are, however, harsher and
depict extreme form of oral cancer with gory pictures disfigured
lips, cheeks, jaws and teeth due to oral cancer.
The harsher warnings were earlier supposed to be implemented from
June 2010, which was delayed to December 2010, and now to December
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