With just a week left for December 1, authorities in the Anti-Tobacco Cell and organisations working towards tobacco control across the country are apprehensive if the pictorial warnings on tobacco packets will be changed as stipulated. Considering its ineffectiveness, the pictorial warnings on all tobacco products that came up in May 31, 2009, was supposed to undergo a change starting from June 1, 2010, but was deferred to December 1, 2010, through a gazette notification issued by the Central Health Ministry.
"Though it was decided that the new pictorial warnings would be introduced by December, so far, we have not received any information regarding its further deferment," said Dr Riyaz Basha, Nodal Officer, District Anti-Tobacco Cell.
He said, "Earlier this month, the ministry had a meeting in this regard but we have not received any details about the outcome. With the public interest litigations filed and various civil organisations across the country working towards the effect, I hope there is no further delay."The change of the pictorial warning - to be made in line with the Control of Tobacco Products Act - assumed significance after the research conducted by the IndianCouncil of Medical Research showed that the country recorded around 2,200 tobacco-related deaths per day and 800,000 death in a year.
"The pictorial warnings are a big breakthrough. They will help in sensitising people, especially illiterates, about the hazards of tobacco and others will think twice before using them," said, Vidya Venkataraman, Public Health Researcher working on tobacco control at the Institute of Public Health (IPH), Bangalore.Dr Monika Arora, Head of Health Promotion and Tobacco Control, Mumbai, said, "As per the earlier notification by the Ministry, the new pictorial warning should come up by December 1.
But there are speculations of delay and dilution.""We had a glance of similar pictorial warnings available in other countries at the India International Trade Fair, which is going on in Delhi and found the existing Indian warning to be the weakest. Hence, we will send an advocacy to the Health Ministry on Thursday with this regard," she said.