India’s ban on tobacco promotion operational

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, April 30:

The spate of advertisements and sponsored events by cigarette and chewing tobacco majors will grind to a halt Saturday when India’s ban on tobacco promotion comes into effect. With this, India, a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco expected to come into force soon, will join the league of select countries like Sri Lanka that have gone beyond curbing smoking in public places to banning tobacco promotion directly or in any surrogate form. Already state governments like Delhi have been issuing advertisements warning of stringent action if any company is caught flaunting the ban.

“While the government will lose a lot of revenue from curbs on advertisements, according to a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), it is only half of the Rs 250 million (IC) treatment cost the government has to bear due to various diseases people get through tobacco smoking and chewing,” said K V S Rao, under secretary in the ministry of health.

“This apart, there is tremendous economic loss to the country with people mostly in their prime not being able to work,” Rao said. According to WHO estimates, in 2000 around four million people died globally due to tobacco use while in India alone the number exceeded 800,000. The number of those falling ill due to tobacco use runs into million in India. In the run up to the ban, while the health ministry has been in touch with various state governments to gear up the machinery to implement it, the tobacco products companies have been noticed to have stepped up the promotions through advertisements and sponsored events like beauty pageants and sporting events.

From May 1, the International Labour Day, any violation of the ban, not only on electronic media but also in print and outdoor hoardings and posters, could lead to jail terms of one to five years and fine. The ban applies to all direct or indirect promotion including use of trademark, scholarship, prize or sponsor, a health ministry official said. It will take another three months for the full ban to take effect as the notifications on prohibition on sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products within 100 yards of any educational institution is still to be issued.