The US-based World Lung Foundation has asked the Indian government not buckle under tobacco industry lobby and implement large graphic health warnings on cigarette and tobacco packs immediately in view of Sunita’s revelations.
Sunita Tomar, who underwent major surgery for oral cancer came out against tobacco in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to help prevent others from suffering similar fate. she died on Friday, Aoril 2, 2015 but remained the face of anti-tobacco campaign in India.
Large graphic warnings are proven to be highly effective in warning people about the harms of tobacco, irrespective of the audience’s level of literacy or language. The large graphic warnings can prevent children in particular from taking to tobacco, said the foundation.
A study published in 2014 in the Journal of Public Health, based on research in India among other countries found that current small or text-only warnings on tobacco packs do not help children understand the real harms of tobacco as Indian kids showed the least awareness levels about the health warnings on tobacco packs.
Nandita Murukulta, Country Director, India and Director of Global Research and Evaluation, World Lung Foundation, said: “We were saddened to hear of the death of Sunita Tomar yesterday. Sunita was in many ways an Everywoman. From a small town called Bhind in Madhya Pradesh, she married at fourteen, had two young sons, lived with her parents-in-law and aspired for more for her children.”
Sunita who began to chew tobacco developed oral cancer and she was brave enough to come out in open to tell her story to warn others about the harms of tobacco.
Vaishakhi Mallik, Program Manager, India who worked closely with Sunita during the filming of the PSA said, “Sunita was a true fighter. During the filming she was frequently tired and uncomfortable, but she overcame her physical and emotional pain to speak with dignity and clarity to the media, never flinching in the face of all that scrutiny. She wanted to fight for a tobacco free world that would save her children and others from the suffering she experienced.”
In India, more than 2.5 million children and more than 120 million adults use tobacco daily. Tobacco is the cause of 14.3% of male deaths and 4.7% of female deaths, killing over 981,100 Indians every year. The cost of tobacco-related diseases amount to Rs.1.4 trillion every year, especially among those aged between 35 and 69.
The World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategy is pivotal in campaigning against tobacco consumption and it has partnered with the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.