As bigger pictorial warnings on tobacco products became mandatory from today, cigarette companies announced they were stopping production, citing “ambiguity” on the issue. The move will result in an estimated loss of Rs. 350 crore a day in turnover for the tobacco industry.
“Owing to ambiguity on the policy related to revision of graphic health warning on tobacco product packs, the members are unable to continue manufacturing cigarettes from April 1,” read a statement from the Tobacco Institute of India or TII.
Fearing “potential violation of rules by continuing production”, the TII members, including key tobacco companies like ITC, Godfrey Philips and VST, have decided to shut down their factories, the statement said.
The TII said it has sought clarification from health ministry about the order on March 15.
The Health Ministry’s notification on September 24, 2015, regarding new health warnings on packages comes into force from today. These prescribe larger pictorial warnings on all tobacco products.
But a Parliamentary committee had described the government’s proposal — that 85% of the packaging surface carry pictorial – as too harsh, It had recommended that the message occupy 50 per cent of the space. Its stand had evoked sharp criticism from lawmakers and health experts.
On the other hand, the TII had contended that the recommendation for 85% warnings will promote illegal cigarette trade and adversely affect the livelihood of 45.7 million people — farmers, labour, workers, trade and others.
Nearly 10 lakh Indians die every year due to tobacco related diseases every year.