May 27, 2011
In what could be a reprieve to the $4-billion beedi and cigarette industry, the government may allow it to get away with a milder version of pictorial warning on the harmful effects of smoking. However, the smokeless chewing tobacco industry, popularly known as the gutka industry, would have to brace itself for having to depict harsher and strong pictures.
Based on the fresh findings of a government-commssioned study, the health ministry is in the process of finalising two different sets of warnings-one strong and the other milder pictorial form- to be made mandatory for the smokeless tobacco and the smoking tobacco industries respectively.
The ministry which was earlier batting for making the pictorial warning on cigarette and beedi industry harsher has changed its mind in the backdrop of new emerging figures which suggest that of the 35% of adult population of India using tobacco, 21% adults are using only smokeless tobacco that is chewing tobacco. Another 9% actually smoke while the balance use both.
Union minister of health Ghulam nabi Azad said “Of the total oral and mouth cancer incidence for which tobacco is held responsible, around 80% of cancer can be attributed to chewing tobacco while cigarette and beedi can be held responsible for the remaining 20%. There is a great difference in the magnitude of causal relationship which is why we decided to make a distinction between the pictorial warnings of the two types”. The concerned study, pegged as one of the largest surveys in the world was conducted by Indian Institute of Population Studies, WHO and CDC Atlanta and was funded by the government of India.
“Currently the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity is in the process of recommending the pictorial warning. The notification will follow it,” a health ministry official told FE.
In recounting the major achievements of UPA government, Azad included the passing of The Clinical Establishment (Registration and regulation) Act, through which the government intends to compile accurate statistics (at the central level) of the number of hospitals, beds, doctors among other health related resources spread across the country within a span of one year. However, this law needs to get an approval from the individual states to kick off. “We are in talks with the state governments on the issue,” a health ministry official told FE. After a central database with the aforementioned is prepared, the hospitals in the country would be categorized into different classes and new health policy initiatives would be introduced on the basis of the list.