IMA urges the Health Minister to ensure timely implementation of 85% pictorial health warnings on both sides of tobacco packages from April 1, 2016
New Delhi, March 28, 2016 – The Indian Medical Association, India's largest representative voluntary association of doctors of Modern Scientific Medicine with over 260,000 members has urged the Hon’ble Minister for Health & Family Welfare Shri JP Nadda to implement the 85% Pictorial Health Warnings on both sides of tobacco packages from April 1, 2016. In this context, the IMA has also written to the Prime Minister, President, Vice President, Health Minister and the Finance Minister.
IMA is leading the ‘Doctors for Tobacco Control in India’ (DFTCI) forum incorporating organizations like the Cardiological Society of India, Association of Physicians of India, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Indian Dental Association, Public Health Foundation of India, and HRIDAY.
With 275 million adult users, India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products, globally. Doctors and medical professionals, witness the debilitating and terminal effects of tobacco use on a daily basis. Tobacco causes a gamut of serious diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases and stroke.
Pictorial health warnings (PHWs) are the most effective way of communicating the ill effects of tobacco use, particularly among those with low literacy or no formal education. They are more effective than audio and text communication. In a country like India, where one-third of the population is illiterate, pictorial health warnings communicate health messages effectively and can influence decisions. Large and effective PHWs discourage non-users, particularly youth from initiating, encourage current users to stop and prevent relapse of those who have already quit.
India will be hosting the Conference of Parties (COP7) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in November. Given the unbalanced report of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation submitted in Parliament during the Budget session, any reduction in size of Pictorial Health Warnings from 85% will appear as the government succumbing to tobacco industry pressure and backtracking from the commitment made at COP6 in Moscow.
Commenting on the report of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, Dr. S.S. Agarwal, National President and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement said, “The report is not binding on the government. The medical fraternity strongly favors large pictorial health warnings as an effective measure. The COP7 to be held in Delhi in November is a perfect opportunity for India to take the lead and demonstrate commitment to Pictorial Health Warning. We are confident that the Hon’ble Health Minister will uphold his commitment to safeguarding the lives of Indians rather than allowing the tobacco companies to have their way. Tobacco is devastating without doubt, so decisions that can protect people from the perils of tobacco must override any efforts to vitalize the commercial interests of a few”.
Dr. K.K. Aggarwal added, “The Indian Medical Association has published an evidence based white paper on tobacco control and will continue to assist in creating a repository of innovative and effective health messages conveying the multiple health effects of tobacco use”.
Tobacco control advocates in India are hopeful that the implementation date of April 1, 2016 for the 85% pictorial health warnings will be upheld since the Health Minister, during this Parliament Session, has confirmed that the notification first issued on October 15, 2014 will be implemented as planned.