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Helpline and new warning on cigarettes

A new pictorial warning

New Delhi: Tobacco product packs sold in India from September 1 this year will need to carry new pictorial warnings and for the first time a helpline number for people wishing to quit, the Union health ministry has said.

The health ministry on Tuesday notified a new set of two graphic pictorial warnings that doctors say display advanced stages of oral cancer in former tobacco users.

These images will replace the existing warnings that also display images of oral cancer and had come into effect in April 2016, taking up 85 per cent of the total surface area of packs of cigarettes, beedis and chewing tobacco products. The new images are intended to be used for the next two years.

One image will have an accompanying textual health warning: "TOBACCO CAUSES CANCER." The other: "TOBACCO CAUSES PAINFUL DEATH." Both images will need to carry a line displaying the helpline number: "QUIT TODAY CALL 1800-11-2356."

"The idea of making available a helpline number on tobacco packs is a great step forward by the government - it will offer free cessation advice to those wishing to quit or even thinking of quitting," said Pankaj Chaturvedi, a surgical oncologist at the Tata Memorial Centre Hospital, Mumbai.

Chaturvedi said it was not a coincidence that both sets of pictures - existing and new - showed oral cancer. "We believe the most impactful images have been chosen," he said.

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