Tobacco companies will have to get ready to face the music

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New Delhi, April 2: Although there has been a government order which requires all tobacco products packages to carry a 'pictorial health warning', tobacco companies are violating this order. This has come to light by a snap survey conducted by Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) in New Delhi. According to the survey, "no cigarette, bidi packets or any other chewing tobacco products have the new picture warnings".

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued a notification in September 2012 that the warning had to be carried from April 1st 2013. A snap survey conducted by Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) at around 50 retail outlets in Delhi found that there was hardly any compliance. "As per the Government order the new set of pack warning rules to be implemented on both smoking and chewing tobacco products included insertion of the word "warning" in red font and provision of maintaining a ratio between the vertical length and horizontal length of the health warning so as to ensure that pictures are not distorted with change in size of packs," executive director of VHAI Bhavna Mukhopadhyay was quoted as saying.

"With India's growing tobacco burden of over 274 million adult tobacco users, the need for strong and effective pictorial health warnings had been growing and tobacco control organisations have been continuously rallying against the earlier mild health warnings displayed on tobacco products. The tobacco companies have been given more than ample time to ensure the new picture warnings on tobacco packs. It is now time for the enforcement agencies within the Government to ensure effective compliance and bring violators to book," added Mukhopadhyay.

Tobacco companies which fail to comply with the rules will have pay up a fine upto to Rs. 1,000; imprisonment up to one year or both under Section 20 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA). Tobacco product manufacturers can face fines up to Rs. 5,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both on the first conviction.

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