Fortunately, India has moved towards being the country to have the third largest warning sign on cigarette packages and all indications are that it is working. Can we and should we make the warning more effective. Along with Ishan Goel, a data scientist working with me, I have few suggestions on how to tackle cigarette smoking problems in India. In India more than 10% people smoke, with the percentage being much higher in men. While there has been a slight reduction of smoking in men, there is an upward trend of smoking in women. The overall percentage of people smoking is on a slight decrease but given the increase in population, the total customers of this venom are increasing. While the prices of cigarettes have increased it has not been the same as the average earning rise, making cigarettes effectively cheaper for an individual to afford than they were ten years ago.
While awareness of cancers due to smoking is on a rise, what is not commonly known in India are following implications of smoking:
It is high time these warnings, with hard numbers, also start appearing on cigarette packages.
Also, in India cigarettes are often sold individually and not in a package. This reduces exposure of the customer to these warning signs. If each cigarette is individually wrapped inside the box, with a warning on wrapping and a warning on each cigarette too the message would hit home. Also, each wrapping should have a warning of other diseases in addition to cancer too. Let the macho men know they would die early of stroke or heart attack, would not enjoy food much and would really suck in bed. Let everyone know the damage they are causing not just to themselves but to the next generation of their family by smoking. Let us take out the glamor and machismo that has been built directly by Tobacco industry around smoking and indirectly by Bollywood in the depiction of characters who smoke by telling what the reality of smoking is. It is clear that warning labels work. Let us make them more effective.