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Posted at: Mar 27, 2016, 1:45 AM; last updated: Mar 27, 2016, 2:22 AM (IST)

Look at bigger picture behind tobacco warning: Docs to PM

Remind Modi of his 2014 pledge

  • Let's pledge to spread awareness on the risks of tobacco consumption and work to reduce tobacco consumption in India... By saying no to tobacco, let us lay the foundation of a healthier India. — PM’s pledge
  • At the outset we want to congratulate you for your message. But events subsequently have forced us to believe the tobacco lobby has overshadowed your commitment to make India healthier. — Doctors’ plea to PM
Look at bigger picture behind tobacco warning: Docs to PM

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26

Over 600 doctors have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminding him of his 2014 pledge to reduce tobacco consumption and urging him not to succumb to the pressures of the tobacco industry to delay larger pictorial warnings on product packages. A parliamentary panel recently batted for the industry by suggesting smaller warnings.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has committed before two high courts (Rajasthan and Karnataka) that it will issue larger pictorial warnings covering 85 per cent of the package area on both sides of cigarettes and “bidis” from April 1. The ministry is now faced with the report of Committee on Subordinate Legislation, which says 50 per cent coverage on both sides of cigarette packs and 50 per cent coverage on single side for “bidis” is sufficient.

A letter signed by 653 doctors now asks the PM if the tobacco lobby is overshadowing his commitment to make India healthier. The letter refers to PM’s Facebook message on March 31, 2014 (see box). Recalling the old message, experts including renowned cancer specialist Pankaj Chaturvedi of Tata Memorial Hospital, say in the letter: “ The latest such event is the recommendation of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation to delay and dilute the notification for pictorial warning.”

They cite data to make their point including how nearly 10 lakh Indians die every year because of tobacco; revenue from tobacco is only 12 per cent of the loss from it; 50 per cent cancers are attributable to tobacco; and how WHO has classified tobacco addiction as a disease. The letter says 27.5 crore people (every third Indian adult) Indians suffer from the addiction while India is far behind — 136th — in the qualitative ranking for pictorial warnings on tobacco products.

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