To dissuade the tobacco users, government has decided to make it mandatory for tobacco manufacturers to put “harsh and gory” pictures on the packs from December 1.
Non-compliance of the order will attract a fine of Rs 5,000 and the product will also be seized.
The Union Health Ministry issued a new notification on May 28 and came out with a set of four pictures each of lung and oral cancer for both smoking and smokeless tobacco products.
For cigarettes and bidis, the ministry has notified pictures of blackened lungs and a side face depicting cancer affected mouth while for smokeless tobacco, pictures of bloodied mouth and gums have been selected.
According to officials, the manufacturers this time have been given a wider choice as demanded. Government has cleared four pictures for smoking tobacco and four for smokeless form or chewing tobacco. The manufacturers can choose and use any one from those four pictures.
Though the new pictorial warnings were supposed to be adopted from December 1 last year, the intense lobbying by tobacco manufacturers led to postponement of the decision by one more year by the union cabinet.
The Cabinet had also asked the ministry to give a wider choice to the manufacturers, following which the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity pitched in. The DAVP in March sent the new pictures to the ministry. The Health Minister short-listed the pictures on May 27.
The need to change the pictorial warnings was felt after a survey revealed that the existing pictorial warnings — that of a scorpion on bidi packs and of a cancer-affected lung on cigarette packs — didn’t have the desired impact. The new pictorial warnings, which will be rotated every two years, are expected to discourage people from consuming tobacco.
Statistics show nearly nine lakh people die in India every year due to tobacco use, compared to 55 lakh deaths worldwide. More than 25 crore people across the country use tobacco products like gutkha, cigarettes and bidis. Of these, over 16% are cigarette smokers, while 44% smoke bidis.
The health ministry says 40% of health problems stems from tobacco use. Studies suggest that more than 3.8 crore bidi and 1.3 crore cigarette smokers may die prematurely because of their addiction.
Gory pictorial warnings are used in several countries, including Australia, Belgium, Chile and Hong Kong. Brazil changes the pictures every five months.