New Delhi, Mar 31: The head of a Government appointed Parliamentary panel has come up with a shocking statement that there is no Indian study to confirm that use of tobacco products leads to cancer and therefore deadline for increasing size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products should be deferred.
As India is set to defer its April 1 deadline for increasing size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products, Dilip Gandhi, head of Parliamentary panel on subordinate legislation examining the provisions of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 which had sought deferment of the move, on Monday said all studies in this regard have come from abroad and one should consider the Indian aspect too.
The Parliamentary Committee, which Gandhi -- a BJP MP from Maharashtra heads, had "strongly" urged the government to keep on hold its proposal to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco packets from 40 per cent to 85 per cent.
"All agree on the harmful effects of tobacco. But there is no Indian survey report to prove that tobacco consumption leads to cancer. All the studies are done abroad. Cancer does not happen only because of tobacco. We have to study the Indian context, as four crore people in states like Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh are dependent on bidi-making through Tendupatta," Gandhi told PTI.
He said the Committee has only sought for deferment of tobacco warnings till it looks into the whole issue with Indian context and not be driven by foreign surveys.
Hitting back at the Gandhi's statement, Congress leader Digvijay Singh said, "Has Congress ever tried to remove the "Warning" from tobacco and cigarette products?"
The notification regarding amendment to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Rules, 2008 sought increase in the size of specified health warning from the current 40 per cent to 85 per cent of the principal display area of the package of tobacco products.
On implementation of the notification, India will be the only country in the world with largest pictoral warnings on tobacco products.
Citing "adverse impact" on livelihood of people involved in the tobacco industry, the panel said a large number of representations expressing "serious" apprehensions from MPs as well as other stakeholders against the proposed notification.
Gandhi had also written to Health Minister JP Nadda in this regard seeking deferment of the implementation of the notification.
The Committee, in its report, said it "strongly urges the government that the implementation of the notification viz GSR 727-E dated October 15, 2014 may be kept in abeyance till the committee finalise the examination of the subject and arrive at appropriate conclusion and present an objective report to the Parliament".
India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer globally, with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases of oral cancers being reported every year, according to a health report submitted by the Ministry of Health in consultation with National Institute of Health and Family Welfare on the ill-effects of chewing tobacco.
A recent MoHFW-WHO supported PHFI study, estimated that the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs 1,04,500 crore, 12 per cent more than the combined state and central government expenditure on health care in the same year.
(With inputs from agencies)