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The public health fraternity today lauded the Supreme Court's decision to retain the 85 per cent pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, saying it retained India's position as a global leader in tobacco control. The apex court had yesterday stayed the Karnataka High Court order, quashing the 2014 government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space, saying that the "health of a citizen has primacy". "It is very reassuring that the Supreme Court has respected and upheld the health ministry's landmark decision of having 85 per cent pictorial health warnings on tobacco products. "This decision reiterates the Indian government's commitment to public health and retain India as a global leader in tobacco control," Harit Chaturvedi, chairman, surgical oncology, Max Health Care, Delhi said in a statement. India's current international ranking for package warnings is number three, as outlined in an October, 2016 Canadian Cancer Society Report -- Cigarette Package Health Warning International Status Report -- which ranked 205 countries. The entire world applauded this progressive step, the statement said. "The attorney general's statement in court that increasing the pack warnings to 85 per cent is one of the most progressive steps for public health by this government is a big support to tobacco control, which got its due credit from the court when it termed tobacco as destructive to public health," said Dr Vishal Rao, head and neck cancer surgeon and a member of the High-Powered Committee on Tobacco Control of the Karnataka government. The Karnataka High Court, on December 15 last year, had struck down the 2014 amendment rules that mandated the pictorial health warnings to cover 85 per cent of packaging space of tobacco products, holding that the rules unconstitutional as they violated the fundamental rights such as the right to equality and the right to trade. The statement said the recently released Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 report by the health ministry had put to rest the apprehensions about the effectiveness of the warnings, since 62 per cent of cigarette smokers and 54 per cent of bidi smokers shared that they thought of quitting because of the 85 per cent pictorial warnings. Besides, 46 per cent of smokeless tobacco users also thought of quitting because of the warnings on smokeless tobacco products, it added. The 85 per cent pictorial warnings had resulted in 92 per cent adults (surveyed under GATS 2016-2017) believing that smoking caused serious illnesses and 96 per cent saying that the use of smokeless tobacco caused serious illnesses, the statement said. It added that according to a study supported by the health ministry and World Health Organisation (WHO) -- Economic Burden of Tobacco-Related Diseases in India -- the estimated total cost, attributable to tobacco use from all four diseases in India, amounted to a staggering Rs 1,04,500 crore in 2011.
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