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Indian Government at the Crossroads in Implementing Anti-smoking

India's government said Friday it will soon introduce more prominent health warnings on cigarette packets but confessed it was having trouble overcoming opposition to anti-smoking laws.

However, the new measures will allow tobacco manufacturers to decide what style of warning is printed on packets -- far short of a demand by the country's health minister for the mandatory use of the skull and crossbones symbol.

"Some kind of warning will be there," cabinet spokesman Priyaranjan Dasmunshi told reporters as he explained the measures.

Cigarette packets in India currently only have very small and barely readable text warnings, and the government has been struggling to enforce 2003 legislation for more prominent health messages.

The 2003 anti-smoking law also bans mass media advertising of tobacco products, except at sales points. However, the fine for offenders is a meagre 200 rupees (five US dollars).

"State chief ministers have written (and) MPs have given representations" concerning the laws, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss separately told reporters, adding the government was determined to try again to enforce the provisions of the 2003 law.

"In a few months, we are going to enforce an existing law which will state that all workplaces in India will be smoke free," Ramadoss said.

"All workplaces mean where there are employees present, whether it is an office space, any buildings, any restaurants, hotels, airports or train stations or anywhere where employees are present, will be smoke free."

Ramadoss said 40 percent of all health problems in India were due to tobacco with one million deaths recorded annually as a result of tobacco-related illnesses.

He has also proposed a ban on smoking scenes in Bollywood films.


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