"In India, nearly a million deaths occur every year due to tobacco related diseases. Tobacco is not only a major risk factor contributing to the deaths related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) it also affects the fiscal and economic health of the country.
"The tobacco industry will undoubtedly raise unfounded concerns about impact on economic trade especially loss of livelihood to farmers and bidi rollers but evidence shows that tobacco producers are trapped in a cycle of exploitation and poverty," UN World Health Organisation's Director-General Margaret Chan said in her letter to the Prime Minister.
Also, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO representative to India, issued a statement in which she stated that India, though being a party to the WHO FCTC, has not fully complied with the tobacco pack warnings which currently occupy only 40 per cent of the principal display on one side of the pack.
In line with its commitment to this global treaty, India implemented pictorial health warnings on all tobacco packs in 2009.
"We are confident that the government of India will take an early considered decision in this regard as it prepares to host the next meeting of the governing body of the WHO FCTC-the seventh session in 2016, that will bring together all 180 countries that are parties to the convention," she said.
Mired in controversy, the government has put on hold its decision to increase pictorial warnings on tobacco products to 85 per cent from the present 40 per cent. The rule was to come into effect from April 1 this year.