Aim: A study was carried out to understand the process of interference by the tobacco industry, to measure the compliance of the industry for displaying pictorial warnings on a tobacco product as per the packaging and labeling rules post 31st May, 2009, and to understand the public opinion on the messages conveyed through such warnings.
Materials and methods: A total of 60 samples of tobacco products were purchased after 31 May, 2009, from the retail vendors of tobacco sellers across the country.
Results: The government of India has from time to time, taken measures, including legislations, to control tobacco consumption. The actual implementation of these rules has been postponed repeatedly, apparently because of constant pressure exerted by the tobacco industry. The skull and bone sign hurting religious sentiments as stated by the group of ministers proved to be misleading. Later the Group of Ministers (GOM) proposed three very weak and poorly communicative pictorial health warnings to replace those recommended by the Union Health Ministry based on the inputs of the Department of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP). The industry tried to use strategic means by displaying a dull, diluted, and watered down pictorial warning. The focus group study conducted showed that a scorpion gets associated with the product in a non-scientific manner. X-ray of the lung was hardly understood by anybody.
Conclusion: Overall the tobacco industry has constantly flouted with the law right from the policy level to its implementation by displaying dull, diluted, and poorly informed pictorial warnings.