BHUBANESWAR: Even as the Centre's move to increase graphic pictorial warnings on cigarette and tobacco packets to 85 per cent has hit a roadblock, Odisha is set to take an exemplary step in that direction.
The State Health and Family Welfare Department has planned to raise hoardings with graphic health warnings across cities and towns to strongly drive home the message among people. The hoardings would be put up at strategic locations in consultation with local municipal bodies to ensure maximum visibility for both locals and the floating population.
The pictorial warnings will depict the harms of tobacco consumption of all types from cigarette, bidis to gutkha, zarda, khaini and snuff. They will also contain information and sordid pictures of the effects like cancer, heart attacks, diabetes and other serious diseases.
"The objective is to not only make people aware of the harms but more importantly, persuade users to quit and deter non-users. Worldwide, strong pictorial warnings have proved to be very effective in reducing consumption," Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said.
Graphic and shock-inducing pictures have demonstrated to have significant impact on people. According to WHO reports, in Brazil as high as 54 per cent of smokers admitted to have been seriously affected by the graphical health warnings and wanted to quit while it was 44 per cent in Canada.
Odisha assumes importance as it rates among the highest in tobacco use, particularly bidi and smokeless forms. More than 43 per cent of the State's population chew tobacco without much disparity between male and female. Tobacco use among women is as high as 35 per cent while age of initiation to the harmful substances goes down to adolescence. The State also tops tobacco related cancer incidence accounting for most oral cancers in the country.
Odisha Government has banned manufacture, sale and consumption of tobacco products including gutkha and other smokeless forms since January. 2013. However, the ban has not been effective on ground and such products continue to be openly sold and consumed.
The Health Department has also expressed concern over direct and surrogate advertising of tobacco products in different parts of the State including the Capital City. "We have come across tobacco advertisements even through hoardings in the Capital city and other parts. The issue will be taken up with the Urban Development Department, Municipal corporations and respective local bodies," the Minister said.
Inter-departmental coordination for strict enforcement of the ban will also be strengthened. The Department has sought assistance of police to aggressively crackdown on violators of the ban through regular drives across cities and towns.