After a long and bitter battle for 85 per cent pictorial warnings on tobacco packets, India has jumped from 136th position to third position on pictorial health warnings, according to a report released on Thursday.
The Cigarette Package Health Warnings International Status Report by the Canadian Cancer Society was released at the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) being held at Greater Noida.
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The top two countries are Nepal and Vanuatu, each with 90 per cent health warnings, while India tied with Thailand, followed by Australia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Brunei.
The report ranks 205 countries and territories on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packets. It shows a significant global momentum towards plain packaging, first done by Australia, with four countries mandating it and 14 others working on it.
India was slated to have larger warnings — earlier it was 40 per cent — from April 2015, but a parliamentary committee’s suo motu intervention and the Union Health Ministry’s capitulation to its recommendations delayed the process till the judiciary stepped in. The larger warnings came into effect from April this year, following the intervention of the Rajasthan High Court.
“India has demonstrated global leadership by implementing 85 per cent pictorial warnings on all tobacco packages. This accomplishment is praiseworthy as it has been achieved despite fierce opposition from the tobacco industry. India will serve as a very positive model for other countries, thus benefitting public health worldwide,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst, Canadian Cancer Society.
Meanwhile, there is a move to give India an out-of-turn presidency of COP for two years. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, India has 12 crore tobacco users.