The Indian Medical Association has urged the Centre to ensure timely implementation of the 85 per cent pictorial health warnings display on both sides of tobacco packages from April 1. The IMA, country's largest representative voluntary association of doctors with over 260,000 members, has written to President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Health Minister JP Nadda and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in this regard.
The IMA is also leading 'Doctors for Tobacco Control in India' (DFTCI) forum incorporating organisations like Cardiological Society of India, Association of Physicians of India, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Indian Dental Association, Public Health Foundation of India and HRIDAY.
With 275 million adult users, India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products globally. Doctors and medical professionals witness the debilitating and terminal effects of tobacco use on a daily basis. Tobacco causes a gamut of serious diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases and stroke, the association said.
"Pictorial health warnings (PHWs) are the most effective way of communicating the ill-effects of tobacco use, particularly among those with low literacy or no formal education. They are more effective than audio and text communication," National President of IMA, SS Agarwal said. "India will be hosting the Conference of Parties (COP7) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in November," Mr Agarwal said.
Given the unbalanced report of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation submitted in Parliament during the Budget session, any reduction in size of warnings from 85 per cent norm will appear as the government succumbing to tobacco industry pressure and backtracking from the commitment made at COP6 in Moscow," Mr Agarwal said.
"The medical fraternity strongly favours large pictorial health warnings as an effective measure. The COP7 to be held in Delhi in November is a perfect opportunity for India to take the lead and demonstrate its commitment." "The Indian Medical Association has published an evidence based white-paper on tobacco control and will continue to assist in creating a repository of innovative and effective health messages conveying the multiple health effects of tobacco use," he said.