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Tobacco packaging in India will display graphic health warnings across 85 percent of display surfaces, thanks to new measures announced by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health, on 15 October.

Currently warnings have to cover just 40 percent of one side of the packet. The new legislation requires 60 percent coverage with a graphic warning and 25 percent with a written warning. Manufacturers must use a series of designs pre-tested for impact.

‘This strong new legislation will encourage many smokers to quit and will help prevent non-smokers from starting,’ said Dr Ehsan Latif, director of The Union’s tobacco control department. ‘We know that graphic images depicting the harms of tobacco use are a vital tool in our battle to reduce tobacco consumption. We congratulate the Indian authorities on this strong move to protect public health. ’

Graphic health warnings are particularly effective in countries with low literacy rates, or multiple languages, and can be a vital source of education. It has also been found that smokers underestimate the health risks associated with smoking – graphic health warnings can help de-bunk any myths. India currently has around 275 million tobacco users.

Manufacturers and retailers of tobacco products will have six months to comply with the new legislation. From 1 April 2015, penalties will apply for those breaking the law – producers face two years of imprisonment and / or a fine of up to 5,000 rupees for a first offence, and for a second offence five years of imprisonment and / or a fine of up to 10,000 rupees. Tobacco retailers face one year in prison for the first offence and / or up to 1,000 rupee fine, two years in prison and / or 3,000 rupee fine for a second offence.  

Currently, The Union supports tobacco control initiatives in more than 250 districts in 24 states across India, covering a population of around 400 million, as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco use. Union experts provide technical assistance and expertise for the development and implementation of new laws, capacity-building, and monitoring and evaluation of interventions.

 

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