Doctors oppose K’taka HC order on tobacco warning, write to PM

Oncologists, Dental Surgeons together write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the Karnataka High Court’s order which reverses the 85 per cent pictorial warnings on tobacco products currently in place. The doctors from across the country were distressed after the High Court’s order. The doctors say the warnings which have been in effect for almost two years now have proven to be very effective. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2017 findings also showed the success of these warnings.

Doctors, Medical Associations oppose reversal of pictorial warnings on tobacco products, write to PM

As many as 453 doctors and 10 Medical Associations, in a letter, have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi protesting against the Karnataka High Court’s order which reverses the 85 per cent pictorial warnings currently in place. The warnings which have been in effect for almost two years now have proven to be very effective. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2017 findings showed the success of these warnings. The percentage of people thinking of quitting after seeing these warnings rose:

  • From 38 per cent to 62.1 per cent for cigarettes
  • From 29.3 per cent to 54 per cent for bidis
  • From 34 per cent to 46 per cent for chewing tobacco

 The letter stated, “As doctors who see these cancer cases daily, we are horrified that the Karnataka High Court has used this view to strike down such an effective rule. Tobacco is literally a product that is producing millions of widows, orphans and bereaved parents. While India is celebrating the New Year, lakh of families will be affected by this reversal bringing grief and financial ruin. ”

Speaking of this reversal, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Professor, Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), Mumbai, said, “The photographs on tobacco packets correctly represent the disease caused by tobacco. In fact, many of the patients come to us with even more horrible diseases than shown on the tobacco packets. At TMH, we see dozens of such patients every day. Most of these patients die in 3 to 6 months. Needless to say 80 to 90 per cent mouth cancers are related to tobacco use. In India, as many as one lakh new oral cancers cases are diagnosed every year and 50 per cent of them die within 12 months of diagnosis.”

On December 15, 2017, the Karnataka High Court reversed the decision by quashing these large pictorial warnings. This will take India back to rank 146th in the world, even behind Pakistan.  More importantly, millions of additional lives will be lost if this reversal is brought into effect. Oncologists, Dental Surgeons together wrote to PM Modi against the Karnataka High Court order. The doctors from across the country were distressed after the High Court, in their order, said, “There is no universal acceptance of the theory that use or consumption of tobacco and its products causes cancer.”

Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death. Amongst the 26.7 crore tobacco users in India, one-third will die. Over 5500 children in India initiate tobacco every day. By the time they realize the fatal effects of tobacco, these children have become addicts.

Dinesh Trivedi, a Member of Parliament and Former Minister of Health said, “The Karnataka High Court judgement has reversed an effective policy. I hope the Government will take appropriate steps.”

Pradeep Mathur, Trustee Sambandh Health Foundation, said, “India witnesses 10 lakh deaths every year. It is a country where people use several languages and dialects, the pictorial warning transcends the language and in many case illiteracy barrier. These 85 per cent graphic warnings were appreciated globally and research has also proven the success of these too. India must continue with 85 per cent pictorial warnings for a progressive public health, as our Prime Minister wishes a healthier nation.”