As part of the campaign supporting the government's move to ensure that all tobacco packages in India bore pictorial warnings, around 38,740 signatures were collected and submitted to Union Health Minister, JP Nadda.
"It is shocking that the tobacco industry is providing misleading information to the government and pressuring it to revoke its decision (on bigger pictorial warnings on tobacco products). It is disappointing to see that for their vested interests and profits, tobacco companies and trade bodies are trying to tarnish India's global image," said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, Voluntary Health Association of India.
The government had issued a notification giving tobacco industry six months to ensure that all tobacco packages in India bore pictorial warnings covering 85% of the surface.
"Nearly 3,300 school students have written to the Health Ministry urging introduction of 85 percent pictorial health warnings on tobacco products from April 1. Rahul Dravid, who is also the Ambassador for Tobacco Control, has already congratulated the Health Ministry for this initiative," said Dr Monika Arora, Director, Health Promotion and Adjunct Associate Professor, Public Health Foundation of India.
The new warnings restate Indian global leadership and project the country into one of the first positions for the largest tobacco health warnings in the world, she said.
Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society said, "Countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have taken a cue from India and dramatically increased the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco packages."
'Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report, 2014' released last year had slipped India to 136th position in terms of pictorial warnings on packages of tobacco products.
"India has demonstrated global leadership with its new 85 percent pictorial health-warning rule. It is essential that these warnings appear on tobacco packets as soon as possible. A picture says a thousand words. Pictorial warnings are especially important for those who cannot read," added Cunningham.