A collaborative effort between health officials in India and Australia has formed a tobacco taskforce, which has met with the Indian parliament to discuss plain packaging laws.
As a result, new laws on the way tobacco packaging is displayed to consumers are currently being considered by the Indian government.
A report, which was backed by the World Health Organisation and commissioned by the Australia India Institute, was presented to the Indian government in New Delhi by the taskforce. It held that 275 million people in India smoke or chew tobacco and consequently, this leads to nearly one million deaths.
India is the world's second largest tobacco producer and consumer. The largest is China.
The report highlighted a concern over the rising number of children in India smoking. In addition, the taskforce voiced that tobacco companies are now targeting developing countries to recover lost market from the west.
Plain Packaging Laws
The statistics presented to the Indian Parliament was an attempt by the health officials to encourage action to reduce the number of people smoking. The current, popular, measure being carried out by governments worldwide, to reduce smoking numbers, is plain packaging laws on tobacco packets.
The taskforce used Australia as a case study to demonstrate how such plain packaging laws can be implemented.
However, Australia is currently facing legal action from tobacco supplying countries like the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ukraine. These countries claim that Australian laws used to regulate packaging on tobacco are inconsistent with global trade rules, which Australia is committed to following.
The Australian government is currently waiting for a High Court judgement on a particular piece of legislation, intended to be out later this year, which was challenged by a tobacco company.
Tobacco Packaging Debate in India
The Australia India Institute taskforce on tobacco was chaired by Rob Moodie who is professor of Public Health at the University of Melbourne. He commented on the progress made with India against the tobacco market:
"Tobacco companies are like vectors of disease but, unlike mosquitoes, they can invest millions of dollars in suing people and trying to destroy public health cases against them."
"If India brings in plain packaging laws it would be a giant blow to the tobacco industry, particularly by virtue of south Asia being such a big market."
The collaboration of Indian and Australian officials has been supported and backed by a number of academics and legal experts in both of the countries as well as by the World Health Organisation. It has been reported there are no trade or legal barriers blocking India to legislate on tobacco packaging.