Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, today issued a notification requiring cigarette manufacturing companies to devote at least 85 percent of the surface areas of cigarette packets on both sides to graphically and literally represent the statutory warning. Beginning April 1, 2015 every cigarette packet will carry on both sides pictorial depiction of throat cancer and a message in English, Hindi or any Indian language. “I have specified that 60 percent of the space must be devoted to a picture and 25 percent to the legend,” he said. Making this announcement at a function organised by World Health Organisation (WHO) to observe Global Handwashing Day here today, Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out that the present guidelines did not satisfy anybody outside the tobacco industry. Manufacturers have the option to either devote 20 percent of each side of a packet or 40 percent on one side. This is clearly not enough, he stated. Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “Graphic health warnings using a mixture of pictures and words are part and parcel of every country’s policy on cigarette marketing. Many studies have established that the inclusion of larger and more noticeable health warnings on packages significantly impact life expectancy rates and lead to savings on medical costs.”
A gazette notification amending the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008 was issued today. Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “The war against tobacco consumption is very important for everybody to win. Not only are families being destroyed by the rising burden of oral, throat and lung cancer, but a disproportionate share of the country’s health expenditure is going towards tobacco’s effects.” The total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India for people in the 35-69 age group was more than Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2011 of which 16 percent was direct and 84 percent indirect cost. The cost of premature mortality was highest in the 40-44 age group for both men and women. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Harsh Vardhan stressed the importance of washing one’s hands with soap before and after eating. He recalled having read a book compiling foreigners’ views on India published in 1906. The book said that India probably had the most scientific sanitation code. It elaborated India’s old practices on handwashing, cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation.
“This glorious tradition, however, has not been carried forward to the present times. It is tragic that most of the 1.4 million child deaths per year under the age of five are due to preventable causes including diarrhoea, which can be prevented by better hygiene and sanitation,” he said. Dr Harsh Vardhan stressed that a strong public health movement is being planned by the Ministry aimed at reducing the death rate of children from preventable causes. “Hand washing does not cost anything at all because one uses the same soap for various other reasons. It is a simple and effective intervention,” he stated. After signing on a board supporting the handwashing campaign, Dr Harsh Vardhan urged all sections of society irrespective of age and social background to be partners in the social movement on health. “All countrymen are invited to be part of this,” he declared. Ms NataMenabde, WHO’s Country Representative, said that Global Handwashing Day has significance in the Indian context. “It is a simple and inexpensive way to reduce the disease burden. Today, it is aligned to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Mr. NarendraModi”, she said.