New Delhi: Beedi producers across India on Thursday decided to stop production, a week after cigarette makers did so in protest against the government order asking them to increase the size of the pictorial health warning on packets from 1 April.

All tobacco products, including cigarettes, beedis and non-smoking tobacco, have been told to carry pictorial health warnings covering 85% of the space on both sides of the packet, up from 40% earlier.

“It is not possible to print the warnings, as stipulated, as the curved area and wrapping paper edges, prevent printing on a reasonably large area of the curved surface. The practical impossibility implies that the beedi industry cannot implement the new warning rules in its present form. Therefore it is not possible to produce beedis without violating the law. Being a law abiding industry, there is no option but to stop production," All India Beedi Industry Federation president R.P. Patel said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the industry is not against the policy of curtailing the use of tobacco products.

The association estimated that the industry will lose 240 crore a day due to the production halt. “The government has been indifferent to the plight of the beedi industry, despite repeated representations from various stakeholders. All the workers, mainly women in rural areas, engaged by the Industry have been rendered jobless overnight," said Patel.

The overall beedi industry, led by companies like Pataka Industries, Prabhudas Kishoredas Tobacco Products and Desai Brothers, is estimated to be worth more than 7,000 crore.

According to the industry body, beedi producers employ about 8 million rollers, mostly women. About 3 million farmers are dependant on the industry.

The Tobacco Institute of India, a lobby group of cigarette makers, had on 1 April said the halt in production would cause an estimated loss of 350 crore a day and affect the livelihood of about 45.7 million people dependent on the industry.

However, a health ministry official, on condition of anonymity, said the problem cited by the beedi industry does not hold ground. “We have shown how this can be easily implemented," he said.

In its notification issued on 19 February, the ministry had showed how pictorial warnings have to be printed on cigarette, beedi and non-smoking tobacco packets.