What pictorial warnings, ask Delhi tobacco vendors

Last Updated: Sun, May 31, 2009 12:00 hrs

New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) Still selling old stock of tobacco products, vendors in the capital had no clue about the new regulation for graphic warnings on cigarette packets. While many were unaware about the new law coming into effect Sunday, others said even gory pictures would not deter smokers or affect sales.

'We haven't even got the stock yet. And I really don't think much will happen after these pictorial warnings. People already know that cigarettes kill and there was always a warning. I personally know people who don't care about these warnings,' said Dev Singh, a 43-year-old tobacco vendor at Vasant Vihar in south Delhi.

'All this hype about graphic warnings is just overly dramatised,' he added.

Starting Sunday, observed globally as World No Tobacco Day, all tobacco products are to carry graphic pictorial warnings like the skull and cross-bones or a cancer-disfigured face or diseased lungs to highlight the hazards of tobacco intake.

The fresh stock that many vendors are clueless about is supposed to have a pictorial warning occupying 40 percent of the space on the front of all packets of tobacco products.

'People are not ignorant. Whether you make non-smoking zones or pictorial warnings - it really will not affect them. My business won't get affected at all,' said Navin Garg, a vendor in Sheikh Sarai area.

Vendors say they have not been informed by suppliers about when the new stock with graphic warnings would reach them.

'We are still using the old stock - we have not been informed how long the new stock will take... I am guessing it could take anywhere between two to three months,' Garg added.

Vendors also pointed out that customers prefer buying cigarettes in singles rather than whole packs.

'Most people buy cigarettes in singles as packs are costly - so what is the use of the picture warning then?' asked Raju, a cigarette seller in Saket.

Amit Prakash, another vendor, was hopeful that the pictorial warnings would at least deter younger customers.

'My only wish is that children get scared looking at these images because many under 18 are smoking these days and no one stops them. We try and refuse but they are smart and ask someone older to buy for them,' he said.

Although the usage of strong warnings like skull and cross-bones or a cancer-disfigured face is optional, it is mandatory to have a picture of a scorpion -- pictorial sign for cancer -- and diseased lungs on all tobacco products.

Some vendors are worried if their earnings will be affected in the future.

'I did not know of this (the new regulation)... If people want to smoke it's their discretion. I really don't think these images will deter people from smoking but if it does, it will kill our livelihood,' said Rajpal, who owns a small shop in Dwarka Sector 6.

The implementation of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packing and Labelling) Rules 2008 follows a long battle between NGOs and tobacco industries. The central government had deferred the new law for six months in the wake of pressure from influential tobacco companies.

The move finally came on a plea in the Supreme Court earlier in May by NGO Health for Millions, which alleged that powerful tobacco lobbies were to blame for coming in the way of the law over the last three years.

Campaigners have maintained that graphic warnings will convey the message to a large population of illiterate and rural consumers as well as youngsters who use tobacco.

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