India has slipped to the fifth position among 206 countries in terms of the largest pictorial warning on cigarette packs with 85 per cent of both sides of the packets covered, according to a report released by the Canadian Cancer Society on Monday.
India secured the fifth rank, jointly with Hong Kong and Thailand, in the Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report 2018.
In the 2016 report, Nepal and Vanuatu were top-ranked with 90 per cent of the cigarette packet covered by pictorial warnings, while India was at third position.
While India has maintained the size of the pictorial warning on tobacco packaging, it slipped two places as other countries have improved on the parameter.
The report released Monday highlighted that 118 countries worldwide have made pictorial warnings mandatory, representing a global public health achievement, and 58 per cent of the world's population is covered by this regulation.
Timor-Leste has the largest warnings on cigarette packages in the world with 92.5 per cent on front and back, followed by Nepal and Vanuatu with 90 per cent and New Zealand at fourth with 87.5 per cent.
This is the sixth Canadian Cancer Society international report on cigarette package health warnings. Previous reports were published in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
The report released in Geneva at the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) revealed that there was tremendous international momentum for plain packaging of tobacco.
There are now 25 countries and territories moving forward with plain packaging, with nine having adopted the measure and 16 working on it.
The Canadian Cancer Society report documents global progress on plain packaging, ranks 206 countries and territories based on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages, and lists countries and territories that require graphic picture warnings.
The report found that 118 countries and territories now require pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages, up from 100 in 2016. In 2001, Canada became the first country to make picture health warnings mandatory.
A total of 107 countries require warnings to cover at least 50 per cent of the package, both front and back (on average), up from 94 in 2016 and 24 in 2008.
There are now 55 countries/jurisdictions that require at least 65 per cent (on average) of the package, front and back, be covered with warning, the report said.
In India, the current regulation of pictorial warnings on both sides of packages of cigarettes, bidis and all forms of chewing tobacco products came into effect in April 2016 upon the direction of the Rajasthan High Court and subsequently Supreme Court.
Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, chief executive, Voluntary Health Association of India, said, "India has demonstrated global leadership by implementing the quit-line number on all tobacco packages and we appeal to the government to get these trend setting warnings to help more people quit. India will serve as a positive model for other countries, thus benefitting public health worldwide."
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