Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan issued a notification, which will require cigarette companies to cover 85 percent of the surface area of the packets with a graphical and literal statutory warning.
"I have specified that 60 percent of the space must be devoted to a picture and 25 percent to the legend," Harsh Vardhan said, while attending a function organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Advertisement"Manufacturers have the option to either devote 20 percent of each side of a packet or 40 percent on one side. This is clearly not enough," he added.
The new rule, which will come into effect from April 1, 2015, will require every cigarette packet to carry a pictorial depiction of throat cancer and a message in English, Hindi or any Indian language on both sides.
Explaining the need for graphic warnings, Harsh Vardhan said, "Graphic health warnings using a mixture of pictures and words are part and parcel of every country's policy on cigarette marketing. 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 war against tobacco consumption is very important for everybody to win. Not only are families being destroyed by the rising burden of oral, throat and lung cancer, but a disproportionate share of the country's health expenditure is going towards tobacco's effects," he added.
The total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India for people in the 35-69 age group was more than Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2011 of which 16 percent was direct and 84 percent indirect cost. The cost of premature mortality was highest in the 40-44 age group for both men and women.