Cigarette packets will now come with bigger health warning messages after the Indian government confirmed that they should cover at least 85 percent of the pack in the future.
Tobacco use accounts for nearly half of all cancers among males and a quarter of all cancers among females and it is estimated that there will be 1.5 million tobacco-related deaths in India annually by 2020, according to an International Tobacco Control Policy report.
AdvertisementBeginning next April 1, every cigarette packet sold in India will have to carry an illustration of damage caused by cancer and an anti-smoking message, the health ministry said in a statement.
"I have specified that 60 percent of the space must be devoted to a picture and 25 percent to the legend," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told reporters.
That is up from health warnings that cover 20 percent of cigarette packages sold in India now.
"Many studies have established that the inclusion of larger and more noticeable health warnings on packages significantly impact life-expectancy rates and lead to savings on medical costs," the minister said.
The move stops short of introducing plain packaging as in Australia.
But Indian tobacco companies will in future only be able to use 15 percent of space on tobacco products for branding.
A Tobacco Control Centre report last year stressed the importance of combining strong images with written warnings on cigarette packs to motivate smokers to quit and deter non-smokers from starting.
The Indian notification follows strict tobacco marketing rules practised in many other countries.
In 2009 India began printing graphic health warnings on cigarette packets and other tobacco products.
In 2011 the country implemented strong restrictions on the display and use of tobacco products in films.