Oct. 15 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Government of India has taken historic action that will protect the health of the Indian people and save countless lives by mandating new health warnings on tobacco packs based on the best evidence from around the globe. The new health warnings represent the strongest, most effective action ever taken by India to reduce tobacco use. Today’s action makes India a true global leader in the effort to reduce the number of people who die from tobacco use.
Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan announced that he has issued a notification mandating text and pictorial health warnings covering 85 percent of both the front and back of tobacco packages beginning April 1, 2015. The warnings will feature pictures of tobacco-linked disease such as mouth and throat cancers. With this step, India vaults itself into first place – tied with Thailand – for the largest tobacco health warnings in the world.
Dr. Vardhan and the Government of India have demonstrated bold and courageous leadership because it is clear the tobacco industry will challenge this notification, just as they have with other effective tobacco control measures. All over the world, in countries like Australia and Uruguay, the tobacco industry is fighting hard against health warnings, plain packaging, and other types of restrictions on tobacco packaging and labeling. The reason tobacco companies are fighting so hard is because they know that scientific evidence from around the world shows that large graphic health warnings work to motivate smokers to quit and discourage children and other nonsmokers from starting.
In today’s announcement, the Health Minister drew on his 30 years of experience as an ear, nose and throat surgeon who has treated victims of tobacco use and consoled their families to make the case for the health warnings. We are confident he is up to the task of ensuring the health warnings will go into effect on April 1, and we urge the global community of like-minded governments and public health champions to support the Indian government in implementing the new warnings and reducing the horrible burden of tobacco use in India.
Today’s action by the government of India shows that India is truly a leader in the global fight to address the tobacco epidemic. Without urgent action, tobacco use will claim one billion lives worldwide this century.