Cigarette Makers to Stop Production Over “Ambiguous” Warning Rule

The move will result in an estimated loss of Rs 350 crore per day in production turnover for Indian tobacco industry

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The size of pictorial warning on cigarettes was increased to 85 per cent by union health ministry. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Major cigarette manufacturers including ITC, Godfrey Philips and VST have decided to shut all their factories and stop manufacturing with effect from Friday in the wake of larger pictorial warnings covering 85 per cent of the packaging space coming into force.

The companies, which are members of Tobacco Institute of India, account for more than 98 per cent of the country’s domestic sales of duty paid cigarettes.

Owing to ambiguity of the policy related to the revision of Graphic Health Warnings on tobacco product packs, the members are unable to continue manufacturing cigarettes from 1 April 2016
Tobacco Institute of India (TII)

TII Director Syed Mahmood Ahmad said Indian tobacco industry had written to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 15 March seeking clarification on the matter. Fearing a potential violation of rules by continuing production, TII members have decided to shut their factories.

The move will result in an estimated loss of Rs 350 crore per day in production turnover for Indian tobacco industry
Tobacco Institute of India (TII)

The notification by Health Ministry on September 24, 2015, for implementation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2014, comes into force from 1 April 2016. These prescribe larger pictorial warnings on tobacco products.

The Union Health Ministry, however, dismissed the remarks that there wasambiguity in the policy. A ministry official said the government was “very clear” that packaging done on such products from 1 April will have to display 85 per cent pictorial warning.

There is no ambiguity. With clarity, the ministry has notified that any packaging done after 1 April will have to bear 85 per cent of pictorial warning. Till we do not change the rules, this will remain
Health Ministry official

The ministry had made a commitment to Rajasthan High Court on March 28 that it will implement the said rules from April 1, 2016.

The Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation had described the government’s proposal of covering 85 per cent of the packaging surface with a pictorial warning as “too harsh”. The committee recommended that the message should occupy only 50 per cent of space.

The stand of committee evoked sharp criticism from MPs and health experts.

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