On Friday, the Karnataka High Court declared the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rule, 2014 as unconstitutional. The Act enhanced the 85 per cent pictorial warnings on the packets of cigarette and other tobacco products in order to make it clear and quite visible.
This came as a major blow to health experts in and across the country as the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) -2 had just revealed that these pictorial representations were very helpful in letting people quit the vice.
“Public health community is deeply anguished. Tobacco, killer of 13 lakh innocent Indians and manufacturer of millions of widows and orphans will rejoice today. GATS 2 survey proved that large pictorial warnings are highly effective in making people quit tobacco. The second round of GATS 2016-17 that Union health ministry released put all apprehensions to rest with a section on impact of large tobacco pack warnings showing 62% of cigarette smokers and 54% of bidi smokers thought of quitting because of warning label on the packets,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, an anti-tobacco activist, Professor, Head and Neck Surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital.
The survey revealed that, 46% of smokeless tobacco users thought of quitting because of the warning label on smokeless tobacco products, which are encouraging figures.
“Thanks to these images, there has been a change in perception, which is reason why 92% of adults surveyed believed smoking caused serious illness, and 96% said use of smokeless tobacco causes serious illness,” added Dr Chaturvedi.
According to Cigarette Package Health Warnings International Status Report that was released in 2016, India moved to third position out of 205 countries that had pictorial health warnings on tobacco packages. India’s earlier ranking was 136 in 2014 and 123 in 2012. And hence, the step seems to be a major blow.
Dr Ravi Mehrotra, Director, National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research said, “Reducing the size of pack warnings would be a step back in tobacco control, specially just when things started looking up.”