Industry

Cigarette makers threaten to halt production

India’s key tobacco manufacturers have threatened to halt production claiming “ambiguity” over the government’s policy on health warnings displayed on tobacco packs.

The Tobacco Institute of India (TII), a lobby group that represents 98% of India's cigarette industry, said in a statement that they have “unanimously decided to shut all their cigarette factories with effect from April 1 owing to ambiguity on the policy related to revision of Graphic Health Warnings on tobacco product packs.”

However, a spokesperson for ITC, a conglomerate and among India’s biggest cigarette manufacturers, didn’t confirm if ITC would cease production over the weekend. “We wouldn’t like to say anything beyond what the TII has stated,” Nazeeb Arif, Executive vice person, ITC, told The Hindu.

April 1st was to be the day when cigarette manufactures were to ensure that 85% of the surface area of their cigarette packages be covered with warnings on the harm posed by consuming tobacco. However a parliamentary panel, that controversially involved members from the tobacco industry, had said last month that these stipulations were “too harsh.”

That 15-member committee also recommended that pictorial warnings be restricted to only 50 per cent on both the sides of the cigarette packets and in the case of bidis, chewing tobacco and other tobacco products, the warning be restricted 50 per cent of the display area and on only one side of the packet.

The Health Ministry, in the wake of this, confirmed to the Rajasthan High Court that the stricter 85%-ruling would continue to hold. The TII has said ceasing production would mean a daily loss of Rs.350 crore for the tobacco industry and that “the extreme 85% Warnings will promote illegal cigarette trade and adversely affect the livelihood of 45.7 million people dependent on tobacco which included farmers, labour and workers.”

Earlier this week, public health professionals told The Hindu that there ought to be no dilution of the Health Ministry’s stipulations. Monika Arora, Director of Public Health Foundation of India and a leading anti-tobacco member of the Health Ministry’s Technical and Expert Committees on tobacco control said that “there should be no dilution of the commitments India has made”. India’s public health community has spoken strongly against what was contended as weak evidence linking tobacco and cancer, she added.


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Printable version | May 18, 2022 7:22:17 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/Cigarette-firms-shut-production-over-larger-pictorial-warnings/article60514036.ece