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Doctors protest pictorial reversal

08 Jan 2018. Ten medical associations and 453 doctors have penned an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the Karnataka High Court (HC) which passed an order to reverse pictorial warnings on tobacco products on 15 December, Hindustan Times reported.

In the order Karnataka HC said, “There is no universal acceptance of the theory that the use or consumption of tobacco and its products causes cancer.” Since then, professionals from the medical field in India have come together to protest the order.

Pictorial health warnings have covered 85 per cent of the front and back of tobacco product packaging up until this point. Doctors have said the graphic warnings, which have been in effect for two years, have also been effective, Hindustan Times reported.

"As doctors who see cancer cases on a daily basis, we are horrified that the Karnataka High Court has used this view to strike down such an effective rule. Tobacco is a product that is producing millions of widows, orphans and bereaved parents. While India is celebrating the New Year, lakhs [one hundred thousand] of families will be affected by this,” states the appeal as cited by Hindustan Times.

In the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2017, an estimated 38-62.1 per cent of individuals surveyed smoked cigarettes, 29.3- 54 per cent surveyed smoked bidi cigarettes and 34-46 per cent of the surveyed tobacco users stated that they considered quitting due to the warnings.

Pradeep Mathur, of the Sambandh Health Foundation, was quoted as saying, “India witnesses 10 lakh [One hundred thousand] deaths every year. In a country where people use several languages and dialects, the pictorial warnings transcend the languages and the illiteracy barrier. These 85 per cent graphic warnings were appreciated globally, and their success has been proven by research. India must continue with 85 per cent pictorial warnings for a progressive public health.”

Dinesh Trivedi, member of the parliament and former Minister of Health in India, hopes that the government acts to resolve the graphic health warning policy reversal, Hindustan Times reported.