India will soon set up a laboratory of international standards to test the percentage of nicotine in tobacco products made in the country or coming from outside to help in the fight against tobacco-related diseases, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said Tuesday.
The tobacco-testing laboratory is to come up in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in collaboration with the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ramadoss said the government would make it mandatory for all tobacco manufacturers to mention the percent of nicotine in their products, as per a 2003 decision.
"Currently we don't have the facility to test it and the new lab will enable us in our endeavour," he told reporters here.
The minister said the laboratory would be the first of its kind in South and Southeast Asia but did not give a time frame within which it would be built.
"A lab is there in Brazil, which works in a similar fashion and earns money. The income generated through such activities can be used to promote the anti-tobacco drive in the country," the minister said after a meeting with visiting dignitaries from CDC.
CDC director Julie L. Gerberding, who is on a three-day visit to India, said tobacco was one of the key factors responsible for many diseases.
"The new initiative will help India and the global community in their fight against the health menace," she said, adding that her organisation would aid in providing technical know-how and human expertise for the laboratory.
Talking about the decision to make pictorial warnings mandatory on bidi packets, Ramadoss said his government was for a tobacco free environment and would continue to push for it.
"Thousands of people die every year due to tobacco-related disease and there are over three million people who are currently taking tobacco in India. My effort is to safeguard their health through available ways.
"The word warning has failed in penetrating people's minds and the pictorial warning set to be made mandatory from early next year will create more awareness," Ramadoss said.
He added that such warnings would be made compulsory for all tobacco products - not just bidis.