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Health ministry to withdraw ‘John Terry’ pictorial warnings on cigarette packets

The controversial pictorial warning on cigarette packets allegedly featuring English footballer John Terry is all set to be withdrawn

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | April 11, 2012 12:38:34 am

The controversial pictorial warning on cigarette packets allegedly featuring English footballer John Terry is all set to be withdrawn. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has received a set of seven pictures from the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) as possible replacements and is likely to select one soon.

This is the first time that a pictorial warning is being revised within four months of its coming into effect. Officials conceded that the controversy over the likeness to the footballer and the subsequent threats to sue the government forced the decision.

The pictorials were issued in May last year to be used in packs manufactured December 1 onwards. The warnings have become a favourite of tobacco companies.

But officials hotly contest any reference to the picture as Terry. “The picture could be of any man. It is only the fertile imagination of some who see Terry in it. However the controversy has been an unseemly one and so we are looking at a fresh set of warnings. But we have not received any communication from the footballer’s managers. This is entirely suo motu action,” said a senior official of the ministry.

On January 3,The Indian Express reported about the uncanny likeness of the most common pictorial warning on cigarette packets to the Chelsea captain. In his reaction,Terry’s manager had threatened legal action. DAVP officials had said that it was not clear how the Terry likeness had made its way to the warnings and the ministry and the directorate traded blame for the goof-up.

Interestingly,while the ministry has been left red-faced in all this,cigarette companies were quick to realise the business potential in the licence to use pictures of one of the highest-paid footballers in the world on cigarette packets free of charge. Ministry officials say bulk of the cigarette packets with pictorials now feature this warning and this is also the only one which is printed as per prescribed dimensions,with minimum distortion.

“Though the controversy is a part of the reason for withdrawing it,the present tobacco control dispensation is also not very happy with the quality of this image as a warning. It does not show anything,there is no message that goes out — a man with his lungs with no indication as to what’s wrong with those lungs. That is also why we want this withdrawn,” said a senior health ministry official.

He added that the ministry is mulling action against tobacco companies for distorting pictorial warnings or changing their dimensions.

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