A regulation demanding that all cigarette packs carry a health warning highlighting the dangers of smoking, is meant to have gone into effect on the 1st of September. The notification about the change in warnings was issued last August. By the end of the same month, the old warnings were meant to have been discontinued, as per a March 2018 amendment in the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules.
“As per the notification, we had issued instructions in August to educate vendors and public on new health warnings with the quit-line number. We also sensitised vendors not to sell the old stock and return it to distributors. But on inspection we found that a huge quantity of previous stock is still available in the market. This is defeating the purpose of the fresh health warning of the Central government,” added Arora.
India’s tobacco problem
India has a very serious tobacco problem and unfortunately the second largest cigarette smoking population in the world. In 2016, two scientists, R.N. Sharan of the Department of Biochemistry, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), and M. Siddiqi, Chairman of Cancer Foundation of India, had written a letter to the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda, urging him to consider policies that facilitate smoking cessation by providing smokers with safe and regulated tobacco alternative such as e-cigarettes.
A counterproductive move by the Indian health ministry
However, on the contrary to the above, last August, in an advisory to state governments, the health ministry said that e-cigarettes and Heat not Burn (HnB) devices, should be banned. The health ministry added that they are “are a great health risk to the public at large, especially to children, adolescents, pregnant women and women of reproductive age”.
In response to this, many public health experts including Deepak Mukarji of The Alternatives, an association which advocates harm reduction, said that the health ministry is ignoring the science in favour of e-cigarettes and hence denying the Indian population the opportunity to reduce the harm caused by cigarettes.
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