Lobby groups seek minister’s intervention on uncertainty in tobacco industry

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New Delhi: Industry lobby groups have written to health minister J.P. Nadda, seeking the minister’s intervention to resolve the uncertainty that tobacco companies are facing.

The representations of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) came after the Supreme Court on 4 May ordered the tobacco companies to comply with the fresh government notification asking them to cover 85% of every pack with graphic health warnings. Tobacco companies are pursuing a legal battle against the order. CII and FICCI had written to Nadda on 9 and 10 May, respectively.

The government had, in a notification issued on 19 February, asked all tobacco companies, including cigarettes, bidis and non-smoking tobacco to cover 85% of the both sides of packets with pictorial health warnings, up from 40% earlier, starting 1 April. A government notification to the effect was followed by a statement that a Parliamentary panel had recommended only a marginal increase in the size—to 50%

“The Committee noted in its report that 85% pictorial warning is too harsh and will result in flooding of illicit cigarettes and gains to unscrupulous elements at the cost of livelihoods of crores of farmers and people employed in the industry,” FICCI president Harshavardhan Neotia said in his letter to Nadda.

“While the industry is awaiting the views of the government on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation, in the meantime it has resulted in uncertainty and manufacturers of cigarette, bidi and smokeless tobacco products are unable to continue their production,” added Neotia.

CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee in his letter to Nadda said: “Over regulation in every industry drives trade underground and defeats the purpose. Until we are able to rein in the illegal trade in the sector effectively, it would be desirable to maintain the status-quo on pictorial warnings.”