Consultations on plain packaging of tobacco products

Jay Panda has been spearheading the campaign to reduce the consumption of tobacco products in India. Tobacco is responsible for more than six million deaths annually across the world. Research efforts over the last few decades have conclusively established the harmful effects of consumption of tobacco. However, tobacco use still continues to be one of the largest causes of preventable death and disease across the world.

In India, more than one million people die annually due to tobacco related illness. An estimate of the Planning Commission suggests that the annual health costs on tobacco related illnesses are a staggering $ 6.5 billion. Jay Panda believes that there is an urgent need for concerted action by public health organizations and civil society groups to mobilize popular support and keep up the pressure on the government to act in the larger public interest. Unless the agenda of reform of the tobacco industry is expeditiously addressed, it will have crippling implications for our human capital and our collective destinies.

In December 2012, Australia led the way by becoming the first country to enact a legislation mandating ‘plain’ packaging of tobacco products. Plain packaging restricts tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text appearing on packages. Surveys conducted by independent researchers suggest that making tobacco packets drab and unattractive deters young adults and reduces initiation into tobacco use.

Learning from the Australian example, Jay Panda introduced a Private Members’ Bill in the Lok Sabha to stipulate plain packaging of tobacco products. His Bill seeks to increase the size of the health warning and the accompanying graphic to at least 60% of the front and back surfaces of the package. It also prohibits advertisement of tobacco products in warehouses and shops i.e. at the point of sale.

Besides pursuing the matter in Parliament and writing opinion pieces on the issues, Jay Panda has been working closely with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY) to organize consultations on issue.

One such consultation was organized in Delhi in December 2012 and another in Bhubaneswar in February 2013. In 2013, there are plans to conduct the consultation in two other cities in India.