Countering tobacco industry interference/tactics in implementation of 85% pictorial health warnings (PHWs) on all tobacco packs through policy and political advocacy
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Voluntary Health Association of India, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A660
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Pictorial health warnings (PHWs) effectively communicates health hazards of tobacco use - consumers see warnings thousands of times. As per law (COTPA 2003, Section 7), it is mandatory to implement PHWs across all tobacco products in India. Article 11 of the FCTC mandates that signatories should implement pack warnings within three years of ratifying the treaty.
Tobacco industry used different tactics like filing of multiple litigation´s in various courts , using political clout and parliamentary committee , using livelihood card forming front groups and campaigning through paid ads in all national newspapers coercing the Government by announcing a closure of production etc.

Intervention or response:
Strategies used to counter tobacco industry
• Right to Information Act to get info on representations sent to MoHFW by the industry and counter arguments.
• Mapping and creating a caucas of senstised MPs raising questions in the Parliament & coming publicly in support
• Sensitize all the 15 members of Committee on Subordinate Legislation (COSL) Committee on the need for large health warnings including the Chairman CoSL.
• Well coordinated civil society campaign where, letters were sent to HM and PM by 67 Public Health NGOs 500 letters sent to MoHFW , PMO, , Over 650 doctors , Five widows of former tobacco users, 10 MPs and members of Medical Associations wrote to HM and PM. .
• Sharing of local , global studies/reports/evidences with the policy makers.
Timeline: Year 2014 to 2016

Results and lessons learnt:
Despite all industry tactics , after a two-year battle, India implemented 85 % PHWs on tobacco products package from 1st April, 2016 and moved to 3rd position out of 205 countries that have pictorial health warnings.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
Government must set up a mechanism to closely monitor the compliance of pictorial health warning rules and take appropriate action against the non-compliant companies.

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