“New Rules on Pictorial Warnings to Stay”, Says Supreme Court

A new tobacco-control rule requires health warnings to cover 85 percent of a cigarette pack’s surface.

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Union Health Minster JP Nadda has said that the government is committed to bigger pictorial warnings on tobacco packaging. (Photo: Reuters) 

The Supreme Court, in a ruling, has informed the tobacco industry that it must adhere to federal rules requiring stringent health warnings on cigarette packs. This comes as a major setback for the $11 billion industry that opposes the new policy.

The court also turned down an industry plea to stay the implementation of the new tobacco-control rules introduced from April 1, which require health warnings to cover 85 percent of a cigarette pack’s surface, up from 20 percent earlier.

In response to this court directive, shares of India’s biggest cigarette maker ITC Ltd fell nearly 1 percent.

Last month, Indian tobacco companies had briefly shut down production as the new rules came into effect. The industry says the new policy is impractical and says it will boost cigarette smuggling.

But the government is sticking to its guns, and has backed the new rules that are aimed at reducing tobacco consumption. Ranjit Kumar, The Solicitor General of India, told the court that New Delhi was committed to the new rules and opposed any stay on their implementation.

Officials from the Tobacco Institute of India, an industry lobby group whose members include ITC and Godfrey, were not immediately available for comment.

It was not immediately clear when the companies will start printing bigger warnings on their packs.

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