The Delhi government has suggested the Union Health Ministry to add the word ‘early’ to its recently revised text warning — ‘Tobacco causes painful death’ — which, it said, does not clearly explain the fact that the life span of tobacco users get shortened. The revised text along with enhanced pictorial warnings and a national toll-free number to help tobacco users quit addiction, will cover 85 per cent of each packet of tobacco products from September 1.
The text warnings that will be printed on the packets are ‘tobacco causes painful death’ and ‘tobacco causes cancer’. The Delhi government’s health department lauded the revised warnings saying they will have more effective impact in prevention of tobacco use, but claimed that the text ‘tobacco causes painful death’ does not clearly explain that the life span of tobacco users gets shortened.
Additional Director (Health) Dr S K Arora in his letter to the Union health ministry said death can be natural too, but cigarette smoking causes premature death. Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than of non-smokers, the official said.
“So, the words ‘Tobacco causes painful death’ clearly does not explain the very fact that the life span of tobacco users also get shortened. Therefore, it is suggested that if we can add the word ‘early’, so that the revised wordings can be ‘Tobacco causes early painful death’, will affect the mindset of people more and the message will be more clearer,” Dr Arora said in the letter.
The Union Health Ministry had on April 3 issued a notification regarding amendments on using the new warnings and including the toll-free helpline number — 1800-11-2356, which has been set up to help tobacco users fight their addiction by providing support and guidance. Last month, the Centre had extended the duration of existing health warnings on packets of tobacco products till August 31, from its earlier deadline of March 31.
According to Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, a cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, around 12 lakh deaths occur every year in India due to tobacco usage. Almost 40 per cent of non-communicable diseases, including cancers, cardiovascular diseases and lung disorders, are directly attributable to tobacco use, he said.
Chaturvedi, who is also a member of the committee which finalised the the recent pack warnings, said use of tobacco is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of all cancers in India and 90 per cent of mouth cancers.