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Resentment over hold on tobacco pictorial warnings

IANS  |  New Delhi 

The central government's decision to postpone implementation of pictorial warnings that asked for more space on tobacco packaging from April 1 has saddened many, including health associations.

Reacting to the decision, the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) said it was feeling let down by the government's decision to hold the implementation of pictorial warnings with increased area.

"We are feeling very let down by this decision and shocked that the health ministry revoked its decision because it may have a financial impact on revenue from the tobacco industry and overlooked their impact on the illiterate and children.

"Any country which is serious about the socio-economic development of its citizens will not take unjustified one-sided decisions of this nature," VHAI chief executive Alok Mukhopadhyay said at a press conference here.

This decision made parliamentarians, doctors, cancer patients, international and national experts, youth and civil society ask "which way is India going?"

"The announcement has come as big setback to public health as it is contrary to the assurance Health Minister J.P. Nadda gave while speaking at a public event on World TB Day that his ministry will keep to the deadline of April 1, 2015, to implement larger pictorial warnings on tobacco products," Mukhopadhyay said.

Monika Arora, director for health promotion at the Public Health Foundation of India, also expressed the same sentiment.

"Time and again, tobacco companies have made baseless arguments in their efforts to dilute strong pictorial health warnings and delay their implementation," Arora said.

"India must act fast to protect its people, especially youth, from the dangerous effects of tobacco use, and pictorial warnings are an effective way to communicate harms to those with poor literacy status."

Earlier in the day, Health Minister J.P. Nadda said the Committee on Subordinate Legislation has recommended the postponement of the government's decision to implement pictorial warnings that asked for more space on tobacco packaging from April 1.

The minister to reporters that increase of the pictorial warning area should be kept in abeyance as all stakeholders were yet to be consulted.

"We want to discuss it with all involved and then a decision would be taken on the issue," Nadda said.

BJP MP Dilip Kumar Gandhi, who is also the chairperson of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, in a letter to the minister had recommended that the decision to implement the increased labelling be postponed as the financial impact on the parties concerned was yet to be examined.

"The impact of the notification on workers and manufacturers of the bidi/cigarette and tobacco industry in India and its financial impact as a whole on the revenue needs to be examined," Gandhi said.

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First Published: Tue, March 31 2015. 20:58 IST