India, after Nepal and Vanuatu, has some of the largest pictorial warnings on cigarette packets in the world, according to a report by the Canadian Cancer Society. The society said India was ranked 136th in its last report in 2014, but has moved up to third place after it increased the size of its pictorial warning on the front cover of the packets. The Centre had ruled that from April 1, the pictorial warnings on all tobacco products would have to cover 85% of the box containing them, as against the previous 40%.
The report was released on Thursday by the Canadian Cancer Society in Delhi during a conference of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Other countries on the top 10 list included Thailand (tied in third place with India), Australia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Brunei, Canada, Laos and Myanmar.
"India has sent a strong message to the community" by implementing the Centre's order, said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, chief executive, Voluntary Health Association of India. “The Indian government has set an example for making India a global leader in its commitment to reducing tobacco use and the sickness and poverty it causes,” Mukhopadhyay added.
Some surveys by non-profits working for tobacco control in India have found that pictorial warnings do act as a deterrent. Picture warnings are especially valuable for low- and middle-income countries, where there are higher rates of illiteracy and where governments may have few resources, said experts.
Tobacco is a leading cause of mortality in India, with nearly 10 lakh deaths attributed to annually its consumption.