Cancer: Govt makes ‘QuitLine’ number on tobacco packets mandatory

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has issued a notification to print ‘QuitLine’ number on tobacco packets. The notification has been issued on April 03. Along with the Quit line – a helpline number to quit smoking, the government has asked the tobacco manufactures to put two set of pictorial warnings on the tobacco products as well

  • The Health Ministry has amended the ‘Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008’
  • During the rotation period, there shall be two images of specified health warning which shall appear consecutively on the package with an interregnum period of twelve months.
  • ‘Tobacco causes cancer’ and the word ‘Tobacco causes painful death’ shall appear in white font colour on a red background
  • The helpline number reading – ‘Quit today call 1800-11-2356’ shall appear in white font colour on a black background

In order to curb the menace of cigarettes smoking and smokeless tobacco in the country, and to save thousands of people who lose their life due to smoking and consuming smokeless tobacco, the union government has taken a bold step.

The government has made it mandatory, for all tobacco manufactures to put ‘QuitLine’ number on tobacco packets. With this two sets of enhanced pictorial images will also have to be published on the cigarettes and smokeless tobacco packets.

Though the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) had shown that, tobacco prevalence in the India has dipped marginally, and many smokers have thought about quitting smoking due to the pictorial warnings. But, the tobacco prevalence amongst the juveniles between the ages of 15 to 17 had risen. Which was a concerning factor for the union government and doctors. Owing to which, the government was contemplating to put QuitLine toll free number on the cigarette packets.

Doctors and organisations working towards the quit tobacco movement have welcomed the government’s decision.

Dr Ravi Mehrotra, Director, National Institute of Cancer Prevention And Research said “Tobacco use is responsible for more than 1.3 million deaths every year in India, yet more than 26 crore Indians use tobacco in some form or the other. The newly notified health warnings are stronger and effective and will help in motivating several of these tobacco users to quit.”

He added, “According to the recent GATS India Report (2017) 55% smokers and 50% smokeless tobacco users want to quit. Displayed  the ‘national tobacco quit line’ number along with the warnings on tobacco packs is an excellent way of letting the tobacco victims know that there is help available for them to get rid of their addiction.”

He further said, “This effort of the health ministry will go a long way in providing the much needed cessation support and protecting the vulnerable tobacco users from the clutches of the dreaded addiction.”

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Professor and head and neck cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital said, “We greatly appreciate the step taken by the Ministry of Health. These new set of warnings will surely be a great deterrent for newer tobacco users. It will also compel current users to quit.”

He further added, “Creation of a dedicated QuitLine is a great step forward by the government. It will offer free cessation advice to those willing to quit.”

Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2) findings revealed:

  • Prevalence of tobacco use has reduced by six percentage points.
  • The number of tobacco users has reduced by about 81 lakhs.
  • 28.6% of adults aged between 15 and above (26.7 crore) use tobacco in any form.
  • 19.9 crore adults in rural areas and 6.8 crore adults in urban areas use tobacco.
  • Every fifth adult (19.9 crore) uses smokeless tobacco and every tenth adult (10.0 crore) use smokeless tobacco.
  • 3.2  crore adults resort to dual use of tobacco.
  • 19.0% of men, 2.0% of women and 10.7% (99.5 million) of all adults currently smoke tobacco.
  • 29.6% of men, 12.8% of  women and 21.4% (199.4 million) of all adults currently use smokeless tobacco.
  • 42.4% of men, 14.2% of women and 28.6% (266.8 million) of all adults currently use tobacco (smoked and/or smokeless tobacco).
  • 55.4% of current smokers are planning or thinking of quitting smoking and 49.6% of current smokeless tobacco users are planning or thinking of quitting smokeless tobacco use.
  • 48.8% of current smokers were advised by health care provider to quit smoking and 31.7% of current smokeless tobacco users were advised by healthcare provider to quit use of smokeless tobacco.

Recently, Mumbai’s Prince Aly Khan Hospital’s Health Service Aga Khan, had conducted a survey amongst school-going children regarding cigarette smoking.

The survey revealed:

  • 27% children are addicted to cigarette smoking.
  • 6.3% children consume hookah.
  • 24% children are addicted to tobacco products.
  • 9% children smoke cigarette currently.
  • 16% children mix tobacco in supari and consume it.
  • 71% boys and 20% of girls are addicted to smoking.
  • 54% children of class 10 smoke.
  • 94% were aware of the consequences. Yet still, continue to smoke

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