[Answered] Evaluate the effectiveness of warnings and disclaimers in curbing tobacco consumption. How can the government address broader triggers and influencers of tobacco use?

Introduction: Briefly explain recent guidelines to curb tobacco use.

Body: How effective are these procedures and what more can government do to address this issue?

Conclusion: Way forward.

Recently Health Ministry issued advisories making it mandatory for OTT platforms to display tobacco-related health warnings at the beginning and in the middle of streamed content. The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) Rules, 2004, were amended to include the requirement. Since 2004, these Rules have been updated to include warning messages on cigarette packaging, limit tobacco product advertising, restrict tobacco retail near educational facilities, and require the display of anti-tobacco warnings in theatres and on television, mediums that have largely complied with the regulations.

How effective is this process to curb tobacco consumption?

  • Treating symptoms, not root cause: Rather than going for a blanket ban on the production & sale of tobacco products Government has gone for piecemeal measures which are viewed as mere tokenism.
  • Vague guidelines: The guidelines seem to be vague and difficult to implement due to the nature of the web series divided into episodes, multiple languages, and the discretion of consumers to skip the part or watch it later.
  • Compliance burden: Review of a large amount of web content for use or representation of tobacco use would put immense pressure on finances and would be time-consuming.
  • International Report:Lancet Global Health Research Review on Global Impact of Tobacco Control Policies on Smokeless Tobacco Use found India’s efforts to curb smokeless tobacco use “exemplary”. These measures align with the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) and include taxation, regulation of contents, labelling and packaging, education campaigns, cessation services, restrictions on sale to and by minors, and a ban on the sale and manufacture of products such as gutkha.

How can government address triggers and influences of tobacco use?

  • Public Health campaigns: The government in collaboration with WHO should launch health campaigns in colleges and schools to address issues of peer pressure and mental stress which are responsible for tobacco consumption.
  • Stringent measures: The government has taken measures such as bans on advertisements, spitting in public places, prohibition of the use of plastic sachets for packaging, and tobacco use in public places to further discourage consumption.
  • Multidirectional approach: The approach requires limiting the production of tobacco by encouraging tobacco farmers to shift to growing food crops that would provide them and their families with a better life, supporting national economies and ensuring food security.

Conclusion:

The government should work with all stakeholders especially industry in formulating a strategy to limit the production as well as consumption of tobacco. Health Minister has rightly suggested and mooted the idea to start a Lok Bhagidari campaign in mission mode through Jan Abhiyaan to create wide awareness among youth and the nation regarding the seriously debilitating and harmful effects of tobacco consumption.

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