New Delhi, October 4: In India, the number
of deaths caused by tobacco year is expected to touch of 1.5 million by
2020, up from 1.3 million deaths per year in 2017. Among the measures taken to
reduce tobacco consumption is the use of large-sized pictorial warnings on
tobacco packs. But tobacco industry has been opposing increasing the
size of such warnings, raising doubts about their effectiveness.
Now a new study has shown that large health
warnings on tobacco packets with plain packaging can be highly effective in
conveying ill effects of tobacco to people. It has found that such warnings would
be more impactful through increased visibility of the warning thus help prevent
initiation and motivate cessation.
Researchers studied perceptions of both
adolescents and adults on the effects of larger size graphic health warnings
covering 85% of the area of the packets against those covering 40% of the area
currently being used. The study included 2,121 participants from Delhi,
Najafgarh, Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district. Of them 62% were urban
residents, and 72% had never used tobacco. Half of the participants were from
lower socioeconomic category and 46% belonged to the middle socio economic
The study participants were shown four
different types of packets – conventional packs, dummy packs with conventional
background but with warnings in 40 per cent of the area, dummy packs with
conventional background but new warnings in 85 per cent of the area and dummy
packs with plain background and new warning in 85 per cent of the area.
Researchers used an
interviewer-administered questionnaire and it was conducted as individual
face-to-face interview. It was found that packs with 85% graphical warnings
were perceived to be more effective in increasing noticeability of the warnings
and conveying the intended health message. These warnings were also effective
in preventing non-users from initiating tobacco use, and motivating users to
“India lacked research evidence to defend
the large warnings against the legal challenges posed by the tobacco industry.
At the same time, there was lack of evidence in India to show that these large
warnings would be more effective on plain tobacco packs and that there was
widespread support for these plain packs in the general public,” explained Gaurang
Nazar, a member of the research team from the Public Health Foundation of
India, while speaking with India Science Wire.
The study also highlights the need for
plain packaging instead of commercial packaging of tobacco packets, in line
with the experience in elsewhere. A study conducted in Australian had shown
that plain packaging accelerated the decline in smoking prevalence and reduced
the appeal of tobacco packs.
The study findings have been published in the
journal Tobacco Induced Diseases. The study team included researchers from PHFI;
HRIDAY; Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad; University of California;
University of Oxford and University of Melbourne.
By Jyoti Singh
(India Science Wire)
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