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Pictorial warnings on tobacco stuff are useless!

Last updated on: April 4, 2011 14:06 IST

Pictorial warnings on tobacco stuff are useless!

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The Union Health Ministry on Monday admitted that the present pictorial warnings on tobacco products have not been effective as people did not understand their message of caution.

The ministry is also in consultation with the Agriculture Ministry to find a way out in persuading tobacco farmers to move to another crop in its bid to contain tobacco use, Keshav Desiraju, Additional Secretary in Union Health Ministry, told media persons in New Delhi.

A pilot study is underway in Andhra Pradesh in this regard, he said.

"We are working on improving pictorial warnings. People did not understand that the picture of 'scorpion' was meant to show that consuming tobacco is dangerous. Similar was the case in the image of X-Ray."

"In some cases, we got the feedback that the image was not clear. Globally, evidence shows that pictorial warnings work and act as a deterrent," he said.

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Pakistan has one of the most effective pictorial warnings and that the government has to work on improving the pictorial warning, Desiraju said during the National Consultation on Smokeless Tobacco Conference.

"Use of smokeless tobacco is one thing which is more prevalent in India. Now it is spreading to other countries and we have found that the countries, which have shown such a trend has Indian population," he said.

Noting that most of the anti-tobacco campaign is focussed on the issue of smoking, Desiraju said there was a need for building awareness on use of smokeless tobacco also.



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"The target group is different. We need to reach out to them in a different way. We have to think how to reach out to rural populace," he said.

He noted that banning tobacco itself may not be that efficient as "industry is always two steps ahead of government" when it comes to circumventing law.

"We have recently heard about a particular type of cigarette, which has nicotine but no tobacco. This product is not subject to any legislation," he said.



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Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said there was a need for policy level intervention to curtail usage of smokeless tobacco.

Dr Vinayak Prasad of WHO said there was no point in banning smokeless tobacco in one state when others are not banning.

"If Uttar Pradesh bans smokeless tobacco and Bihar doesn't, then it is not of any help. What we need is a centralised action," he said.



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