Centre lashed for deferring date of pic warning on tobacco products

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Panaji, Jan 15 (UNI) The National Organization for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE-INDIA) today strongly condemned the centre for postponing the implementation date to display pictorial warning on tobacco products.

In spite of an urgent call for action by the Shimla High court and the civil society, the government had not indicated a final decision on the date or nature of warning. It was deferred first from June 1, 2007 and postponed four times thereafter.

The tobacco industry argues that pictorial warnings would invite decline in consumption, thereby causing unemployment.

''This is manifestly untrue as the decline in consumption is likely to be remain steady for next two decades. Moreover, it will be offset by growth in population,'' said NOTE India General Secretary Dr Shekhar Salkar, here today.

Pictorial warnings have been introduced in several developing and neighbouring nations like Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Chile, South Africa and others.

Tobacco, he said, claims around one million lives per annum in India alone. The toll is likely to exceed to two million per year in the next 20 years. Unsuspecting poor and illiterate people form the major chunk of victims.

Both the tobacco industry and government have a duty to provide a clear communication of health risks of tobacco use to potential and current consumers, he stated.

''Hence, we request the government to take instant decision overruling petty claims and the interests of self-seeking industry.

We need to think in terms of long-term health of the nation in general. We hope better sense will prevail on the centre and its ministers,'' he said.

A Group of Ministers has been convened by the Prime Minister to examine the issue. This group includes External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukharjee, urban development minister S Jaipal Reddy, Parliamentary affairs minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes and health minister Dr Ambumani Ramdoss.

The ministers are likely to be biased in favor of the Tobacco lobby. Mr Pranab Mukharjee for instance has a massive presence of bidi workers in his constituency. Andhra Pradesh, from where Mr Jaipal Reddy hails, is also a Tobacco Growing state. Hence, one cannot expect a larger perspective and sane decision from the centre, he deplored.

Display of pictorial warnings will not result in instant decline in sales. The same will be slow and the companies will have ample time to shift to other greener pastures in terms of production and employment.

The Tobacco Industry today is worth Rs 45,000 crores and public loss in terms of tobacco related diseases is 30,000 crores. Another 15,000 crores are spent on tobacco Consumption. Thus, the industry as such cannot be called productive or revenue generating especially at the cost of innocent million lives, he said.

If Tobacco were to be introduced in the market, as on today, it would never have seen light of the day, as the market would not entertain instant killers.


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