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Doctors Favour Large Pictorial Warning On Tobacco Products From April 1, Seek PM's Help

New Delhi/Bhopal: The suggestion of a Parliamentary panel to reduce the size of “pictorial warning” on tobacco products from proposed 85 per cent to 50 per cent has met with stiff resistance from medical fraternity in the country. Indian Medical Association (IMA), India's largest representative voluntary association of doctors of modern medicine with over 2.6 lakh members, has urged union health minister J P Nadda to implement 85% pictorial warnings on both sides of tobacco packages from April 1.

The IMA has also written to the Prime Minister, President, Vice President and the Finance Minister in this regard. With 275 million adult users, India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products, globally. Tobacco causes a gamut of serious diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases and stroke.

Report not binding on the Government
Commenting on the report of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, Dr S.S. Agarwal, National President and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement said, ‘The report is not binding on the government. The medical fraternity strongly favors large pictorial health warnings as an effective measure. The Conference of Parties (COP7)  to be held in Delhi in November is a perfect opportunity for India to take the lead and demonstrate commitment to Pictorial Health Warning".

653 doctors sign memorandum to PM
Around 653 doctors and other members of the medical fraternity have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow the Union Ministry of Health to carry on with its proposed 85 per cent pictorial warning on tobacco products from April 1 and ignore the suggestion of the Parliamentary panel. They also opined that any reduction on the size of the pictorial warning on tobacco products would lead to major health hazards in the country.

Health ministry wants 85 pc warning
Currently, tobacco products carry 40 pictorial warning on their covers cautioning the people about the harmful effect of tobacco consumption. The Union health ministry had proposed to further increase its size from 40 to 85 per cent to discourage people from consuming tobacco in all forms.

Large pictorial warning effective measure of prevention
Dr Dilip Acharya, Chairman National Cancer Control Committee of Indian Medical Association (IMA) who is among the 653 doctors who sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 26 said, “Large pictorial warning on tobacco packets is the most cost effective strategy to prevent youngsters from initiating the use and provokes current users to quit the habit. In a country where vast majority of users are less literate, effective pictorial warning carries tremendous value.

Doctors say nation comes first
The doctors who are part of this campaign against reducing the pictorial warning say, “we are committed to this important public health issue despite potential loss to our livelihood subsequent to effective tobacco control. We are not complaining because nation comes first”.  “It is unfortunate that Parliamentary panel (COSL) report is ignoring health of billions for the benefit of few”, they lamented.

PM has personal commitment
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Professor and Surgeon says, “A FB message of Modi ji shows his personal commitment for this important public health issue. A plethora of medical evidences have proven beyond doubt that tobacco is the only consumer product that has no good use except causing disease, disability and death. We are very hopeful that he will do the best for the health of the nation”.

Modi’s FB post
According to him, the PM posted on the Facebook on 31st May 2014 – “Let’s pledge to spread awareness on the risks of tobacco consumption & work to reduce tobacco consumption in India. Tobacco not only affects those consuming it but also people around. By saying no to tobacco, let us lay the foundation of a healthier India”. The doctors also blamed the powerful and affluent tobacco lobby for subverting the anti tobacco measures of the government for improving the lives of millions of poor people in the country.

Panel less bothered about devastation
Dr PC Gupta, a Navi Mumbai based doctor says, “it is unfortunate that the Committee on Subordinate Legislation is putting pressure to delay and dilute the notification for pictorial warning. They seem to be less bothered about devastation caused by tobacco but highly concerned about the wellbeing of the tobacco Industry.”

Large warning cuts down consumption
According to Dr Ashok Dhoble, Secretary, Indian Dental Association, “it is well established that large pictorial warnings cuts down the tobacco consumption. That is why the entire tobacco lobby has got united to subvert the notification”.

Parliamentary panel recommends smaller pictorial warnings
In a Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation report tabled in the Lok Sabha recently had said that the requirement will be “too harsh” on the tobacco industry and will result in “flooding of illicit cigarettes”. The 15-member committee has recommended that pictorial warnings be restricted to only 50 per cent on both the sides of the cigarette packets.  In the case of bidis, chewing tobacco and other tobacco products, the committee has recommended that the warning be restricted 50 per cent of the display area and on only one side of the packet.