Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 31
In a major boost to the anti-tobacco movement, the government has decided to go ahead with larger anti-tobacco warnings on all product packages — smoking and smokeless — from tomorrow, ending months of confusion around the issue.
The disclosure came today in an affidavit the Ministry of Health filed in an ongoing case in the Rajasthan High Court, which had earlier rapped the government for delaying new anti-tobacco rules which would have mandated tobacco manufacturers to cover 85 per cent area of both sides of packages with pictorial health warnings.
Currently, only 20 per cent coverage of one side of the pack is necessary under the law. Harsher warnings are proven deterrents against tobacco use but India ranks 136th among 198 countries on the issue and the last among Saarc nations.
To correct this anomaly, the Health Ministry had issued new set of anti-tobacco rules on October 15, 2014, called The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014, mandating larger warnings on cigarette and beedi packs.
But the Ministry deferred the notification meant to come into force from April 1, 2015, after the Parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation asked it to do so on grounds that it was examining the issue.
The committee recently submitted its final report which favoured the tobacco lobby by suggesting warnings on 50 pc area of both sides of cigarette packs and 50 pc on one side of beedi packages.
In the HC today, the Ministry said that committee recommendations were under their consideration but the 85 pc coverage rules would come into force from April 1, 2016, as promised to the court earlier. The Ministry further stated in its affidavit that it had distributed warning images to tobacco manufacturers to facilitate new warnings from tomorrow and had given the industry six months’ preparation time.
“The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014, will come into force from April 1,” the Ministry affidavit says. Under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, India’s anti-tobacco law, the government is supposed to issue harsher anti-tobacco warnings every year. India has also made this commitment being a signatory to the UN’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Tobacco use kills 10 lakh Indians annually.
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