Plain packaging of tobacco products in India

The world is watching Australia progress towards tobacco plain packaging. A number of developed countries have announced that they will follow suit. But, as tobacco companies are losing traction in developed countries, it is likely they will be more and more new markets with their poison.

If the world is watching Australia move to plain packaging, imagine how people can sit and listen, if India, the second largest producer and consumer of tobacco products in the world, has developed a similar policy.

So, when the Australia-India Institute tobacco control task force held a high-level launch of its policy document on plain packaging at the Press Club in New Delhi, we all waited intently for a response from the government and department of health and family welfare.

We were more than encouraged by the response.

Support from the India representative of the World Health Organization and a number of politicians expected. But we were very happy support Shakuntala Gamlin’s in committing to move toward such a policy in India.

Steps in the right direction

Just like in Australia, Indian Tobacco Control law largely prohibits the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. But it is currently excludes packaging and point of sale displays such industry increasingly relies on the package for a promotion.

We’re sure the support of the Indian Department of Health and Family Welfare was not missed by the big tobacco companies. After all, this is a policy that would affect a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s tobacco users.

Given the many interests and a powerful tobacco lobby, we know that the introduction of such a policy in India will be difficult. It will take several years and require significant, ongoing advocacy and research.

At the launch of the policy document, the Joint Health Minister also said that it is closely monitoring the progress of Australia, and we can only assume that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been encouraged by the High Court last week. We believe that India can learn from this and other Australian experience in moving to a simple package.

A Helping Hand

Australia provides technical assistance to India in the field of research and advocacy through Australia, India Institute working group, which was convened with the idea of sharing experiences and using his considerable knowledge and experience on a normal package.

This task force was called enthusiasm from the international community in the fight against tobacco, and, encouragingly, from members of the target group in India. Indeed, the severity of Indian partners has prompted us to go beyond our original mandate and conduct research on the acceptability of plain packaging and the production of promotional packaging.

We have also developed useful tools for further dissemination of our work.

Local knowledge

We released the preliminary results of the market research on the target group through the Public Health Foundation of India on the issue of admissibility of plain packaging and the relation to packaging, brands and packaging color to run.

He showed that the children’s interest in tobacco packaging significantly affects colors and branding. This shows the importance of case studies in India, before taking such initiative. We found, for example, that the Indians see the dark gray as the least attractive color, whereas in Australia, chose the color olive green.

The study also found that the context in India is complex, with multiple forms of non-smoked tobacco and smoking, as well as different forms of the latter. All these forms of tobacco should be included in any legislation, as tobacco companies will find loopholes and replace one product to another.

In India, 5500 children try tobacco for the first time every day. Attractive packaging is designed to make sure that it will not be the last time. This policy initiative, if implemented, along with other proven interventions for tobacco control, will save thousands of lives and prevent thousands of young people from becoming addicted to a substance that kills more people worldwide than any other.

We believe that our target group can help Indian organizations such as the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and the Public Health Foundation of India to work towards plain packaging. But we need cooperation between health organizations and tobacco control, government agencies and the community, if we want to see a simple package to become a reality on the sub-continent.