Tobacco law goes up in smoke

Despite strict instructions from the Supreme Court of India to have pictorial warnings on tobacco products, a large number of gutkha and bidi
companies here are not going by the rule. According to a study conducted by a voluntary organization, Aparajita Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), it came to light that 80 per cent of the brands available in the market are not adhering to the warning guidelines.

“Many bidi, gutkha and khaini companies do not carry the customary warning. Even if they do, they are weak, ineffective and fail to perform the crucial role of informing users and saving lives. A few cigarette companies and brands are however carrying the pictorial warning,” the study revealed. It’s mandatory to carry the pictorial warning under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packing and Labelling) Rules, 2008, that came into effect on May 31 this year.

The study also pointed out that there’s no no monitoring mechanism in Orissa. Tobacco companies are very casual in complying with the Supreme Court order. In many packs, the warnings cover only 10-20 per cent of the principal display area instead of the stipulated 40 per cent, the study observed. “There is no checking or seizure to create awareness among vendors as well as tobacco companies to take the order seriously,” said Itishree Kanungo, a volunteer of VHAI.

Given the fact that one person dies due to smoking in every 40 seconds in India, the warning should go a long way in alerting tobacco users. India is the second country in the world to have tobacco-related deaths after China. Over 900,000 people die every year in India from smoking-related ailments. Passive smoking is also one of the major causes of people falling prey to smoking-related diseases.

Dr A K Rath, CMD, Hemlata Cancer Hospital, said that tobacco-induced killer diseases like cancer are preventable. “About 0.4 per cent Indians is presently suffering from sub-mucosis fibrosis, the initial stage of oral cancer. So it’s high time we take the warning seriously,” said Dr Rath.

This brings into focus the role of the police in enforcing compliance with rules. Police commissioner B K Sharma said, “Compliance can never be enforced. It has to be a conscious decision by responsible citizens. However, we are planning zero-smoking zones in public places. We will also make no-smoking zones mandatory for procuring cinema hall license from the coming year.”

© Copyright: Timesofindia

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