New Delhi, The World Lung Foundation on Thursday asked India to dismiss misinformation being spread by the tobacco industry and implement large graphic health warnings on tobacco packs without further delay.
The implementation of the warnings would be a fitting tribute to the bravery of cancer patient Sunita Tomar, who died on Wednesday, the foundation said.
The central government has decided to rescind its decision to increase the pictorial warnings on tobacco products to 85 percent.
Tomar was the face of anti-tobacco warnings.
After a diagnosis of tobacco-related oral cancer and major surgery at the Tata Memorial Hospital, Tomar – with the support of her family – agreed to tell her story in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to raise awareness about the harms of tobacco and to help prevent others from suffering her fate.
The foundation, in a statement, said large graphic warnings, like hard-hitting mass media campaigns, have proved to be highly effective in warning people about the health harms of tobacco.
Large graphic warnings also transcend language barriers in countries like India, where different languages and dialects are used across a large national population.
In addition, large graphic warnings can play an important role in helping to prevent children from initiating tobacco use, it said.
Nandita Murukulta, country director, India and director, global research and evaluation of the foundation, said: “We were saddened to hear of the death of Sunita Tomar.”
Vaishakhi Mallik, programme manager, India worked closely with Tomar during the filming of the PSA.
Mallik recalled: “Sunita Tomar was a true fighter. During the filming, she was frequently tired and uncomfortable, but she overcame her physical and emotional pain to speak with dignity and clarity to the media, never flinching in the face of all that scrutiny.”
According to the Tobacco Atlas, nearly a quarter (23.2 percent) of adult males, 3.2 percent of adult females, 5.8 percent of boys and 2.4 percent of girls smoke tobacco in India. In addition, over a quarter (25.9 percent) of adults use smokeless tobacco.