India takes critical step to curb… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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India takes critical step to curb tobacco use by implementing 85 percent graphic health warnings on all tobacco products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 07, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC— Last week the Government of India intensified its fight against the tobacco epidemic by implementing 85 percent graphic health warnings on both sides of all tobacco products, making its warnings among the largest in the world. The new graphic health warnings will save countless lives. We commend India’s government for standing up against industry attacks on the health warning policy and moving forward with vigorous implementation efforts. We are confident the India’s Government will continue to put the health of the Indian people as its top priority and will not cave in to the continued pressure from the tobacco industry.

The new warnings are being implemented at a critical time in India’s tobacco epidemic. Currently, there are more than 275 million tobacco users in India. Nearly half of all Indian men use some form of tobacco, particularly inexpensive hand-rolled cigarettes called bidis, and tobacco kills almost one million Indians every year. The toll of death and disease from tobacco costs billions of dollars for the nation to treat. By implementing the new health warnings, the Indian government is assuming a leading role in global and regional efforts to reduce tobacco use and fully implement its obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Unfortunately, signals from the tobacco industry indicate that attempts to reduce the size of the new warnings are already underway and pose a serious threat to the implementation. Tobacco industry interference and the ill-informed support of some policy makers with vested interests have repeatedly delayed the implementation of the warning labels. Last week’s important step forward can only have its fullest impact if the government withstands tobacco companies’ attempts to reduce the size of the warnings and vigorously requires implementation.

Research shows that large, graphic warnings – the larger the better – are an effective way to inform customers, especially children and illiterate people, about the harms of tobacco consumption. Tobacco companies fight hard against the implementation of health warnings because they know tobacco packages are one of their most valuable marketing tools.

The global trend for larger, graphic warnings is unstoppable. Many countries – including India's neighbors like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Bangladesh – have implemented large graphic warnings. The new warnings implemented last week put India on a list of countries breaking new ground by placing extremely large warnings on tobacco packs, as India prepares to host the November 2016 Conference of the Parties of the WHO tobacco-control treaty.

By implementing the new graphic health warnings, the Government of India has taken decisive action to help offer a bright future to a generation of tobacco-free kids. The government must not back down in the face of ongoing tobacco industry attempts to reverse this progress.