IMA calls for implementation of 85 per cent PWH rule for tobacco products

The Indian Medical Association, representative voluntary association of doctors with over 260,000 members has urged health minister JP Nadda to implement the rule for 85 per cent Pictorial Health Warnings on both sides of tobacco packages from 1 April, 2016.

The IMA had also written to the prime minister, president, vice president, health minister and the finance minister.

India, which accounts for 275 million adult tobacco users, is the second-largest consumer of tobacco products, globally. Doctors and medical professionals, are witness to the debilitating and terminal effects of tobacco use on a daily basis as it causes several serious diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases and stroke.

Pictorial health warnings (PHWs) have been found to be able to effectively communicate the ill effects of tobacco use, particularly to those with low literacy or no formal education. In a country like India, where a third of the population is illiterate, PWHs have been seen to be more effective than audio and text communication.

PHWs that are large have proved effective in discouraging non-users to take to tobacco, especially youth. They also encourage current users to stop and prevent relapse of those who have already quit.

Meanwhile, the government would go ahead with its decision to implement a rule requiring large pictorial warnings on tobacco products, said Amal Pushp, director (tobacco), MoHFW.

He added that from 1 April, all tobacco products, including cigarettes, beedis and non-smoking tobacco, would need to display pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the space on both sides of the packet.

He added the ministry had issued a notification in February and it would continue with it. Currently pictorial warnings cover only 40 per cent of the packet area.

There had been an element of uncertainty with the measure earlier, after a parliamentary committee recommended earlier this month, that the size should be increased to only 50 per cent.