Union Health Ministry on Wednesday issued a notification making it mandatory for cigarette companies to devote at least 85 per cent of the surface areas of cigarette packets on both sides to graphically and literally represent the statutory warning.
Of this space, 60 per cent will be the pictorial warning and the rest 25 per cent the health message which will have to be in English, Hindi or any other Indian language. The gazette notification amending Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008 will come into effect from April 1, 2015. At present 40 per cent of the surface area on one side of the pack has to display the warnings.
India ranks 136 of 198 countries according to the international status report on cigarette package health warnings. With the new measure, India will join Thailand in the list of countries with the biggest health warnings. In Australia, it is 82.5 per cent and in Uruguay, it 80 per cent.
“I have specified that 60 percent of the space must be devoted to a picture and 25 percent to the legend,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said at a function to observe Global Handwashing Day. Four images, two each for packets of smoking and smokeless forms of tobacco were also released in the notification. The pictorial warning will be printed in four colours with a minimum resolution of 300 DPI.
According to figures available with the health ministry, the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India for people in the 35-69 age group is more than Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2011 of which 16 per cent was direct and 84 per cent indirect cost.