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New Delhi under pressure for cigarette plain packaging legislation
Only one other country in the world produces more tobacco than India, and every year more than 1 million Indians die from tobacco-related cancer.

It's estimated that tobacco related health problems cost India $5 billion a year.

Now legislation has been introduced calling for a ban on company logos on tobacco products, a proposal modelled on laws introduced in Australia last year.

India correspondent Stephanie March reports.
Transcript
STEPHANIE MARCH, REPORTER: Each day, Dr Ranga Rao does the rounds of his ward in this private hospital in New Delhi. In the 20 years he has worked in this field, the doctor has seen some alarming cases.

DR RANGA RAO, ONCOLOGIST: I remember about 21-year-old young girl who has been smoking from the age of 13 and she has grown up in the atmosphere of smoking, her parents used to smoke, so she picked up smoking. And she died of lung cancer at the age of 22 and a half.

STEPHANIE MARCH: One of his older patients, 64-year-old Dilbag Singh, has smoked 25 cigarettes a day every day for 52 years.

DILBAG SINGH, PATIENT (translation): I was fond of smoking and I started with my friends. I just wanted to try new things.

STEPHANIE MARCH: When he took up smoking he didn't know it was harmful to his health.

DILBAG SINGH (translation): About a year back I had a coughing problem which wouldn't subside no matter how much treatment I was taking. So I visited the doctor and got an X-ray done. They did a CT (Computed Tomography) scan and they discovered I had a tumour.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Today in India the dangers of tobacco use are well known. But that doesn't stop more than a third of the country's population, about 400 million people, using some form of tobacco.

DR RANGA RAO: Fifty per cent of the people pick the habit at the age of 12 to 15 years.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Tobacco users in India smoke cigarettes or beadies made of poor-quality tobacco and known as the poor man's cigarette. But the majority of Indians use smokeless or chewing tobacco, often mixed with sweets and spices.

DR RANGA RAO: The most common in India are the oral cancers, the completely cavity and then the tongue, the throat and the larynx and voice box.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The Indian government has taken some steps to try to reduce people's tobacco use. Advertising is banned except on the packet and at the point of sale, and all products now carry health warnings. Health advocates say the measures don't go far enough.

DR MONIKA AURORA, PUBLIC HEALTH FOUNDATION OF INDIA: The health warnings came after a very long battle in India. It was not only a scientific battle but a legal battle as well, and after three years of long court battle, we got very weak warnings.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The size of the health warnings falls short of the World Health Organisation's recommendations, and it is not hard for shop keepers to hide the messages. A study done by Dr Monika Aurora found that despite the warnings, both adults and children still find the packets attractive.

DR MONIKA AURORA: They did say that in qualitative interviews that the packs were very attractive to them, to the extent when they looked at one of the pack, they were not sure if it was a candy or a cigarette pack.

STEPHANIE MARCH: A private members bill, based on legislation passed in Australia last year, has been introduced to the Indian Parliament calling for logos and company branding to be totally removed from tobacco products.

DR MONIKA AURORA: For Australia it was a big battle because they didn't have a precedent to follow, but for any country that is following now, it's easier.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Plain packaging means the tobacco companies would not be allowed to put any colours, imagery, corporate logos or trademarks on their packaging. The result could look like this (mock up of plain cigarette packaging is shown). Manufacturers would only be allowed to print the brand name in a mandated size, font and place on the packet. A study done in Australia shows smokers find plain packaging less satisfying and consider quitting more often. But tobacco companies say cigarette sales haven't changed since plain packaging was introducing. We asked India's two biggest tobacco companies, Godfrey Phillips, which is part owned by Phillip Morris, and the Indian Tobacco Company for comment on the legislation. Neither company responded to our request. The legislation will be debated in the Indian parliament. Its supporters are expecting opposition from the tobacco industry and some politicians. Dr Ranga Rao says politicians can't afford to delay legislation he thinks will save lives.

DR RANGA RAO: I think it'll go a very long way. Because the brand value of the cigarettes and the people who pick up the smoking for the sake of it or for fashion because it's a masculine feature, they will stop it. I am sure it will have a big impact on the younger generation. They won't look at it. It's considered as an object of style, so they flash their packets. I think it will stop it. It will drastically reduce.
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