Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 08:23 UK

India in warning on tobacco packs

Children wearing masks at an awareness rally on World No Tobacco Day in Calcutta on Sunday, May 31, 2009
Children wear masks at a rally as part of an anti-tobacco campaign.

All new tobacco products manufactured in India will have to carry pictorial warnings to discourage their use.

Packets of cigarettes, bidis (small hand-rolled cigarettes common in India) and chewing tobacco will now have to display the scorpion and lung symbols.

Authorities have also launched a multimedia campaign urging people to quit tobacco consumption.

Tobacco smoking kills 900,000 people a year in India. The figure is expected to rise to a million by 2010.

A countrywide ban on smoking in public places came into effect last October.

Correspondents say the ban is blatantly flouted and poorly enforced.

But health officials say that ever since they began mounting surprise raids, many smokers are giving up smoking in public.

'Great concern'

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said tobacco products would have to clearly display the pictorial warnings and these must cover at least 40% of the packet's display area

"It is evident that the consumption of tobacco products in the country is increasing in all age groups, making it a matter of serious public health concern. The increase is a great concern for all of us," Mr Azad was quoted by news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) as saying.

The minister said he hoped that the pictorial warnings would be "very visible" and would have "first-hand impact" on tobacco users.

Pictures of diseased, corroded gums warning tobacco users about mouth cancer were put out in the weekend's newspapers.

The government order on pictorial warnings had faced stiff resistance from tobacco manufacturers and the deadline for implementing it had been postponed a couple of times.

India is among the few countries to ban tobacco-related advertisements. The sale of tobacco products to minors is also an offence.

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