Taking a dig at India’s youth, the Supreme Court said that they are not “bothered” about any warnings regarding the ill effects of smoking.
A bench headed by Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy made this remark while hearing a petition, filed by an NGO Health for Millions, regarding the size of pictorial warning on cigarette packets.
The bench observed:
“Do you think all this (pictorial warnings) affect them (youth)? The youth today do not care. They all smoke when they want to. Number of smokers has gone up.”
According to a study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), smokers in India have gone up by over 110 million in the last three decades. And, each year one million people die due to tobacco use, states Indian Council of Medical Research.
Challenging the Karnataka high court’s interim order staying implementation of warning rules on packets, advocate Prashant Bhushan told the bench:
“This is detrimental to public interest and has put to naught efforts made over last few years to ensure larger pack warnings on tobacco products. Pictorial warning would send a message on the health hazards of smoking to the youth and they would at least think of quitting smoking.”
The Union health ministry had earlier drawn flak when it deferred to implement 85 percent pictorial warning on tobacco packets. However, after court’s scrutiny, the ministry issued notification for the same in September last year. The new rule will come into effect from April 1, 2016 as the government gave six months to the tobacco industry to roll out tougher warning.
Currently, tobacco packets in India only occupy 40 per cent of the surface on one of its side.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), only 42 countries, representing 19 per cent of the world’s population, meet the best practice for pictorial warnings, which includes the warnings in the local language and cover an average of at least half of the front and back of cigarette packs.
So far, Australia is the only country which has the world’s toughest tobacco packaging warning messages.
Since 2012, logos, colours and promotional texts were banned from tobacco packets designs and only the name of the product in standard size was allowed. The country has plain packaging cigarette packs with pictorial warnings.