Monitoring and exposing tobacco industry tactics in implementation of 85 percent pictorial health warnings
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Voluntary Health Association of India, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A76
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Pictorial health warnings on packaging of tobacco products is legally mandated as per India's national tobacco control legislation Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act 2003. Pictorial health warnings were notified on 15th October, 2014 & effective from 1st April, 2015 - pictorial warning to cover 85% area on both sides of tobacco packs. However the notification was kept in abeyance in March 2015, due to tobacco industry pressure.

Intervention or response:
Right to Information Act (RTI) is a part of fundamental rights under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India. This empowers citizens to question the Government, inspect their files. The RTI was used as a tool to get info on representations from the Tobacco Industry for delaying the implementation and exposing the industry interference.

Results and lessons learnt:
The information received under RTI, revealed that several hundreds of written representations have been sent by tobacco industry as well as so-called independent and/or industry bodies opposing on various grounds in the implementation of the larger health warnings on tobacco product packs. This was exposed in the media and the stories created pressure and become a national debate. After a two-year battle, India implemented 85 percent graphic health warnings on tobacco products package from 1st April, 2016.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
This helped to effectively strategise and mount a stringent campaign on tobacco control across the country, garner political support from select leaders, sensitize the media and seek general public support for compliance & implementation of pictorial warnings.

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