As the government drags its feet on the issue of pictorial warnings on tobacco products,a survey has revealed that an overwhelmingly large number of Indians favour larger,more prominent health warning labels on packets of cigarettes and bidis.
The survey also shows that a majority of the people disagree with the government’s delaying of the implementation of pictorial warnings.
A poll conducted by health research institute Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health and Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) across four metropolises of India revealed that 99 per cent of the respondents support larger,more effective pictorial warnings on all tobacco products.
The survey was conducted in Delhi,Mumbai,Kolkata and Chennai and covered 1,026 respondents between the age group of 15-64 distributed evenly across the metropolitans. The respondents were chosen from the middle and lower-middle class sections.
The poll also showed a near unanimous opinion on the issue of extending health warnings that are currently carried on packets of cigarettes to those of bidis.
Ninety eight per cent of those who polled wanted the government to require health warning labels on packs of bidis as they do on cigarettes.
Near unanimous support was found in each city,with 100 per cent polled in Mumbai,97 per cent in Delhi and 98 per cent each in Chennai and Kolkata agreeing that the government should require a health warning label on packs of bidis.
As stipulated by the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act,2003,the Ministry of Health had planned to implement large,pictorial warnings on all tobacco products including ‘bidis’ by February,2007.
However,the plan has run into hurdles particularly with the tobacco producers lobbies and the provision of implementing pictorial warnings has been delayed.
The poll also showed that three-fourth of the people surveyed disapprove of the government’s decision to delay stronger health warnings on tobacco products.
“By next year smoking will cause about 930,000 adult deaths each year in India,up from 700,000 deaths per year in 2004,” said P C Gupta of the Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public health.
“The decisions by the Government to delay implementation of the health warnings — and the non-transparent nature of the process — are unacceptable when human lives are at risk,” said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay,Senior Director,VHAI.