New Delhi | The Health Ministry agreed to bring into force larger pictorial warnings on tobacco products from next year as the issue remained in news for most of 2015, which also saw launch of an ambitious programme to immunise children against life-threatening but preventable diseases.
This year also saw the Ministry taking the decision of introducing new vaccines as part of India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in its bid to protect children from more vaccine preventable diseases and it will done in a phased manner.
The nationwide drug resistance survey was also launched with an aim to provide the Revised National TB Control Programme with a better estimate on the burden of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in the community.
As part of the survey, the samples will be subjected to susceptibility testing for 13 anti-TB drugs (5 first line drugs and 8 second line drugs) and the results are expected in a month’s time.
The ministry’s plan to implement larger pictorial warnings ran into rough weather early this year when it had to indefinitely delay the matter pending the decision of a parliamentary committee which was examining the issue.
The committee was looking into the contentious issue of amendment to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008, to increase the size of the warnings from the current 40 per cent to 85 per cent.
The panel courted controversy when its chairman Dilip Gandhi of the BJP along with other members like Shyam Charan Gupta and Ram Prasad Sarmah claimed there is no clear proof linking cigarette puffing and cancer and there are nil effects of smoking.
The Rajasthan High Court on September 9 ordered the Centre to ensure that larger pictorial warnings are carried on all tobacco products by September 29.
This forced the ministry to hurriedly come out with a notification just a day before a hearing on the matter saying all tobacco products will carry warnings covering 85 per cent of the package area from April 1, 2016, up from 40 per cent at present.
The Ministry also launched the ambitious Mission Indradhanush early this year, to fully immunise more than 89 lakh children who are either not vaccinated or partially vaccinated or those who have not been covered during the rounds of routine immunisation for various reasons.
The aim of the programme is to fully immunise children against seven life-threatening but vaccine preventable diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis-B.