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11 months ago
Doctors protest Karnataka’s reversal of pictorial warning on tobacco products

Karnataka High Court in a recent order dated 15th December 2017 quashed the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2014. The 85% pictorial warnings notification was issued on 15th October 2014 and after a long struggle these were implemented on April 1, 2016. India rose to 3rd position in global ranking in pictorial warnings from 136th. India was awarded by the World Health Organization for this decision. Also, it was internationally applauded by many countries of the world. In retaliation to Karnataka High Court’s decision, 453 doctors and 10 Medical Associations have appealed to Prime Minister of India in a letter protesting against the Karnataka High Court order which reverses the 85% pictorial warnings currently in place.

In the Karnataka HC judgment one of the judges, Justice Nagarathna, stated that it is unnecessary to have pictorial and textual warnings suggestive of cancer particularly when the contents of the said warnings are not universally accepted as medically proven.

Aishwarya Bhati, Supreme Court lawyer, said, “National Institute of Health & Family Welfare report on health consequences of tobacco use was submitted in the Supreme Court in February 2011 which clearly establishes link between tobacco use and cancer. She further added that the Hon’ble Supreme Court Murli Deora V/s Union of India (2001) accepted that smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases. In another judgment by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Health for Million Vs Union of India and Others in 2013 held that consumption of these products will result in rapid increase in the number of cancer patients.”

Ms Bhati stated that In fact the statement of objects and reasons of COTPA itself establishes beyond doubt that tobacco causes death, disability and huge financial losses to the Nation. So the Parliament made the law because of the proven link between tobacco and disease. Try this tried-and-tested tips to quit smoking.

Dharamveer Katewa of Indian Asthma Care Society the Government must strongly defend its decision of implementing the 85% pictorial warnings on tobacco products taken in 2016. It was a landmark decision to protect health of our youth.”

Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare stated at the opening of the Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, “We are committed to strengthening non-communicable disease programmes and interventions and implementation of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) as an integral part of the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.”

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has said (on Twitter), “On World No Tobacco Day, let us pledge to spread awareness on the risks of tobacco consumption and work to reduce tobacco consumption in India. Tobacco not only affects those consuming it but also people around. By saying no to tobacco, let us lay the foundation of a healthier India.”

The warnings which have been in effect for almost 2 years have proven to be very effective. Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2017 findings showed the success of these warnings. The percentage of people thinking of quitting after seeing these warnings rose:
- from 38 % to 62.1% for cigarettes,
- from 29.3% to 54% for bidis,
- from 34% to 46% for chewing tobacco.

The letter to PM Modi stated, “As doctors who see these cancer cases on a daily basis, we are horrified that the Karnataka High Court has used this view to strike down such an effective rule. Tobacco is literally a product that is producing millions of widows, orphans and bereaved parents. While India is celebrating the New Year, lacs of families will be affected by this reversal bringing grief and financial ruin. ”

Speaking of this reversal, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Professor Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai said, “the photographs on tobacco packets correctly represent the disease caused by tobacco. In fact, many of the patients come to us with even more horrible diseases than shown on the tobacco packets. At Tata Memorial Hospital, we see dozens of such patients every day. Most of these patients die in 3 to 6 months. Needless to say 80 to 90% mouth cancers are related to tobacco use. In India, 1 lac new oral cancers are diagnosed every year and 50% of them die within 12 months of diagnosis.”

On December 15, 2017, the Karnataka High Court reversed the decision by quashing these large pictorial warnings. This will take India back to 146th in ranking in the world even behind Pakistan. More importantly, millions of additional lives will be lost if this reversal is brought into effect. Oncologists, Dental Surgeons together wrote to Prime Minister Modi against the Karnataka High Court order. The doctors from across the country were distressed the High Court in their order has said, “..there is no universal acceptance of the theory that use or consumption of tobacco and its products causes cancer.” They said that we see such cases daily and there is no doubt as to the cause of the diseases for the last so many decades.

Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death. Amongst 26.7 crore tobacco users in India, one-third will die. Over 5500 children in India initiate tobacco every day. By the time they realize the fatal effects of tobacco, these children have become addicts.

Dinesh Trivedi, Member of Parliament & Former Minister of Health said, “The Karnataka High Court judgement has reversed an effective policy. I hope the Government will take appropriate steps.”

Pradeep Mathur Trustee Sambandh Health Foundation, said, “India witnesses 10 lacs deaths every year. It is a country where people use several languages and dialects, the pictorial warning transcends the language and in many case illiteracy barrier. These 85% graphic warnings were appreciated globally and research has also proven the success of these too. India must continue with 85% pictorial warnings for a progressive public health, as our Prime Minister wishes a healthier nation.”

Source: Press Release

Image source: Shutterstock

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