Not satisfied by increasing the size of the anti-tobacco warning on cigarette packets, the health ministry is now planning to introduce similar anti-tobacco pictorial warnings as part of essential reading for school students. This initiative is a part of the comprehensive effort by the government to curb tobacco consumption in the country. This move is pointedly meant to discourage tobacco consumption among youngsters.
To implement this initiative, health ministry officials will soon meet with the HRD ministry, according to a senior official. Health ministry estimates show that around 6,000 youngsters start tobacco product consumption every day.
The health ministry has mooted introducing anti-tobacco literature in various forms such as pictorial warnings, posters, cartoons, comic strips, a chapter detailing health hazards from tobacco use etc."The proposal will be soon taken up with the HRD ministry" the official said.
Health minister J P Nadda plans to ask the HRD ministry to start including tobacco-related pictorial information in the school curriculum for students in the age group of 12 to 15 years, when the probability of experimenting with tobacco is very high.
This move follows closely on the heels of the controversial increase in the size of pictorial warnings on packs of all tobacco products from 40% to 85% by the health ministry.
Of India's 275 million tobacco users, a worrisome 14% are under the age of 15. However, health experts across the country say it is a gross underestimation.
The official said informal talks at the highest level have already started between health and HRD ministries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) assessment, hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements and pictorial warnings actually work and deter children and youngsters from starting use of tobacco and actually encourage and increase the number of people who wish to quit.
In the next step of increasing deterrence the UN agency is now asking countries to pressure the industry to introduce plain packaging in order to reduce the appeal of tobacco consumption and increase the visibility of health warnings on tobacco packs.
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