University of Melbourne based Australia India Institute, quoting ‘Global Adult Tobacco Survey India Report for 2009-2010,’ says that 275 million Indians, or more than a third of the population uses tobacco. Almost 1 million deaths a year occur due to it and even children are increasingly getting hooked on chewing tobacco, causing rates of oral cancer to soar.
The institute has recommended Australian type plain cigarette packaging. Plain Packaging means no trademarks, logos, colours or graphics. Canada and UK are the other two countries considering plain packaging.
Some countries like Ukraine, supported by pro tobacco groups, are suing Australia stating that the law for plain packaging is not in tune with WTO commitments. Some experts feel that plain packaging will stimulate both the demand and supply of illicit cigarettes as it will be easier to counterfeit cigarettes whilst also increasing demand for branded black market cigarettes. They also say that it won’t reduce tobacco consumption. The UK Department of Health’s 2008 document described the impact of plain packaging on total tobacco consumption as “speculative”. In 1994, the Standing Committee on Health of the Canadian Parliament heard presentations on four studies cited in support of and against plain packaging, and found that these studies did not show evidence that plain packaging will reduce tobacco consumption.
The pro plain packaging group says that the packaging is a status symbol and induces more consumption. A plain packaging does away with the perception.
India is one of the first countries to ratify the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and has implemented the WHO’s MPOWER package in addition to passing the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003. More needs to be done as India along with other Asian countries are the next targets for tobacco sales to offset the decline in sales else where.