New Delhi: Tobacco use continues to be a major public health issue across South East Asian region including India as it kills on an average around 150 persons every hour, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said, advocating making ‘plain packaging’, which involves removal of branding and promotional information from tobacco products, mandatory.
The WHO said a good way to amplify the message that ‘tobacco kills’ and disrupt the psychology of tobacco consumption is making ‘plain packaging’ of tobacco products—also known as standardised packaging—mandatory.
In ‘plain packaging’, brand and promotional information is removed from tobacco packet and replaced by graphic health warnings, dull colour combinations, a brand name and a product or manufacturer’s name in standardised front.
“Tobacco use continues to be a major public health issue across the WHO South-East Asia Region (which includes India) with nearly 246 million people in the region’s 11 countries continuing to smoke tobacco and just below 290 million using it in smokeless forms.
“Tobacco is leading to death of 1.3 million people across the region every year—the equivalent of 150 fatalities per hour,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia said on World No Tobacco Day.
She said the aesthetic impact of ‘plain packaging’ is significant, with studies showing that it has tangible effect on the desirability of tobacco products. “As smoking levels decline in high-income countries, tobacco companies are increasingly relying on market presence in developing economies, including those in the South-East Asia Region.
“This presence must be resisted. Tobacco’s impact goes beyond public health, stymieing the growth prospects of developing economies and burdening taxpayers and health systems whose finite resources could be better used elsewhere,” she added.
She said although all 11 member countries, including Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, have developed and implemented tobacco control legislation, children, youths and adults continue to be subjected to pro-tobacco consumption messages in media.