Maharashtra FDA is the first government body to have begun a crackdown on distributors selling the products without appropriate warnings. Doctors say large and graphic pack warnings are critical for India because of its low literacy levels. The warnings will effectively communicate the range of diseases caused due to tobacco use, discourage non-users, including youth from starting and encourage current users to stop.
“Other countries may have large text warnings but we need to reach out to those who are unable to read. Therefore, 85% pictorial health warnings are necessary in India,” said Dr SS Agarwal, national president of IMA. “The skyrocketing health costs of tobacco use in India, which stand at 1,04,500 crore rupees, have devastating effects on the lives of people as well as the economy. Those working in or affiliated to the tobacco industry must publicly acknowledge the harsh consequences of tobacco use and their capacities must be built to become community based quit counselors as an alternate employment opportunity,” he said.
He further added that the issue of illicit trade of tobacco products is unrelated to pictorial health warnings and large warnings do not affect such trade activities. “We are against illicit trade of all products, which must be dealt with stringent action by the Government,” he said.
“IMA only has one direct interest: to save lives. Workers engaged in tobacco production have to deal with several debilitating medical conditions like green tobacco sickness in the farms and lung diseases in the bidi factories. These people must transition to other sectors. The government is enforcing measures like the 85% pack warnings to de-normalize tobacco use, so as to protect youth and poor from becoming addicted to tobacco. We fully support this initiative”, Aggarwal added.