Indian Policy Makers Try to Weaken… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Indian Policy Makers Try to Weaken Graphic Health Warnings in Favor of Industry Profits – Again!

March 23, 2016

A committee of Indian parliamentarians heavily influenced by the tobacco industry has recommended that increased graphic health warnings championed by the Ministry of Health be reduced in size. India’s Daily Mail called the committee’s report “an unabashed manifesto of the tobacco industry.”

The Indian government is set to implement the new, larger graphic health warnings covering 85 percent of all tobacco packs on April 1 as allowed by the country’s law regulating tobacco products. But the arguments from the group of parliamentarians — heavily influenced by the tobacco industry — have cast doubt on full implementation of the warnings.

This isn’t the first time policy makers and the tobacco industry have meddled with India’s health warnings. One of the more memorable examples occurred in April 2015 when the Ministry of Health postponed implementation of the new warning labels after a member of parliament expressed doubts — incredibly — that tobacco use contributes to cancer in Indians. Media reports have also revealed that a member of the parliamentary committee responsible for the ongoing complications to the new health warnings is a “bidi baron” heavily invested in tobacco. This clear conflict of interest became a national scandal, nicknamed #TobaccoGate.

Graphic health warnings are a critical measure for reducing tobacco use and improving public health. Research shows that larger, graphic warnings inform users about the true harms of tobacco use, discourage nonsmokers and youth from starting, and motivate current smokers to quit.

Worldwide, larger graphic health warnings are becoming more and more commonplace. At least 86 countries require graphic warnings, with new laws recently adopted or implemented in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. In places like Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand warnings are required to cover at least 85 percent of the pack. India can join this list of leaders by implementing the 85 percent warnings on April 1.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. In India, tobacco-related diseases are responsible for killing nearly one million people every year. India’s government must move forward to save lives by implementing the new health warnings as planned on April 1, and not be distracted or intimidated by the baseless arguments of the tobacco industry and its allies in parliament.