Background and Context: In India, 50% of cancers in men and 20% in women are attributable to tobacco consumption. 90% of all oral cancers are due to tobacco use. Strong pictorial health warnings for tobacco packages are effective in preventing tobacco use and promoting quitting. Current pictorial warnings in India fall short of recommended best practices. Plain packaging (PP) of tobacco products is an effective strategy to enhance the impact of pictorial warnings and curb misuse of the pack for advertising. Australia’s best practice of adopting PP can be espoused by other nations. Nascent steps have been adopted in India with the potential of translation into policy and practice.
Aim: To provide an overview of the move towards PP in India and potential next steps-progress made towards PP in India and what can LMICs learn from India’s experience?
Programme/Policy Process:The Australia-India Taskforce on Tobacco Control, comprising of tobacco control experts from both countries (researchers, advocates, policy specialists, lawyers), was constituted in 2011. The Taskforce developed a Policy Document exploring feasibility of PP as a policy measure for India. This was seminal in bringing PP within radar of the Indian Government, as well as catalyzing preliminary research and advocacy for strengthening existing pictorial health warnings/progressing towards PP. PP was brought into the ambit of Parliamentary debate, through a Private Members Bill. The recent transition to a new Central Government provides fertile ground to amplify evidence-based advocacy on PP. As other LMICs contemplate PP, India’s case provides valuable insights on global collaboration, generation of context specific evidence and strategically engaging multi-sectoral stakeholders.
Outcomes/What was learned:This ground work has generated a future course of action to develop a White Paper for contextualising PP in the Indian socio-political and legal milieu, focusing on multi-stakeholder partnerships within and among the Government and Non-Government sectors.