The Centre has notified the new pictorial warnings for being printed on packages of smoking cigarettes and chewable cigarettes products.

The notification, which was issued on Friday and which will take effect from December 1 this year, provides for strong pictorial warnings for smoking cigarettes (cigarettes, bidis, and cigars) and smokeless or chewable forms of tobacco products, including gutka.

A set of four gory pictures, depicting lung and mouth cancer, will be rotated every two years. For cheap cigarettes and ‘bidis,' the pictures show blackened lungs and cancer-affected bloodied mouth, while for smokeless tobacco, pictures of bloodied mouth and gums have been selected.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare amended the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008 — issued under the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (34 of 2003) — to make pictorial warnings mandatory on packages of non-smoking cigarettes forms of tobacco.

The government enacted the comprehensive legislation to combat the menace of tobacco. The 2003 Act provides for a ban on smoking cigarettes in public places and sale of tobacco products to and by minors, prohibition of sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions and a ban on all advertisements of tobacco products. It also provides for pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packages.

After a long legal battle, the Rules relating to Section 7 of Act, which mandates pictorial warnings, were notified in 2008 and came into effect on May 31, 2009. As India has ratified the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the government is committed to implementing its guidelines and provisions. Article 11 of the FCTC recommends pictorial warnings as an effective strategy to cut down on the demand for tobacco. The feedback from different sectors indicated that the existing warnings were not strong and effective enough to influence tobacco users to kick the habit. As the use of smokeless tobacco is high in the country and the consumption is more among the lower socio-economic class with low levels of literacy, it is hoped that strong pictorial warnings will definitely dissuade the users from consuming these products.

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