Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A scorpion on your cigarrette pack?

After much deliberation and opposition from the tobacco lobby (obviously more of the latter), the government today recommended an insipid move that from now will force all packages of tobacco products sold in India to display images of a scorpion and message that tobacco kills. Yes, a scorpion! So instead of seeing this, you see the image of a scorpion. Not the standard skull and bones that signify danger worldwide.

So what if many have little idea what a scorpion is meant to represent here (presumably some kind of threat). And too bad if it means various things to different people. A Google search on what a scorpion symbolises threw up several suggestions: had these on its list - Transition, Death/Dying, Sex, Control, Solitary/Being Alone, Treachery, Passion, Protection, Defensiveness! Wonder which one our Group of Ministers wanted us to associate with?

The tobacco lobby argues that more explicit pictorial warnings will ruin the livelihood of workers in the tobacco industry. They don’t seem to bother about the fact that smoking indirectly kills so many prematurely each year. A generous estimate (see point 5 in the letter) by the All Bengal Beedi Workers' and Employees' Federation places the number of workers in this industry in India at about 40 million. On the other hand, smoking kills a million annually in this country. A fair trade-off you think? Surely not, when you consider that these workers can be gradually shifted to other sectors as most of them practise little specialised skills and focus just on farming tobacco and collecting tendu leaves for the beedi.

So, till the government decides it has enough balls to call a spade a spade, hopefully, you’ll stay away from the sting of the scorpion!


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