Millennium Post

Serious costs

The World Health Organisation has recently said that the economic burden attributable to tobacco-related diseases in India stands at a staggering Rs 1,04,500 crore annually. The WHO has pitched for large-size warnings on packs to control tobacco consumption in a cost-effective manner. Calling for large and prominent health warnings on tobacco products, many experts argued that it is a cost-effective way of increasing public awareness about the negative health effects of tobacco use and reducing overall consumption. But an Indian parliamentary committee, headed by BJP MP Dilip Gandhi, has reportedly advocated for a reduction in the size of pictorial warning on cigarette packets from 85 percent to 50 percent. The panel’s recommendations have come with the Health Ministry's April 1 deadline for implementing the 85 percent warning only days away. Early into its tenure, the NDA government had proposed that manufacturers print health warnings on 85 percent of the surface of a cigarette pack, up from 20 percent. The government is right in advocating stiffer warnings with 9 lakh deaths every year attributed to tobacco use in India. Even though the government is not bound by the panel’s recommendations, the inordinate delay in the adoption of stiffer warnings on cigarette packets has raised some concern among health experts. Some have even argued that the political clout of the panel looking into tobacco packaging has stymied the government’s efforts, with members from both sides of the political divide involved. It is a matter of serious concern, as public health is being sacrificed at the altar of business interests.
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