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Cabinet to decide on tobacco industry request on pic warning

Cabinet to decide on tobacco industry request on pic warning

New Delhi: The Cabinet is likely to take a decision on a request from the tobacco industry to increase the duration of display of a set of pictorial warning on cigarette and other tobacco products.

The union health ministry approached the Cabinet for a direction in this regard to seek clarity about the demands being made by other ministries who are facing the brunt of decrease in tobacco production in the country, official sources said on Friday.

There are two existing pictorial warnings like scorpion and damaged lungs while a new and stricter one -- a cancer stricken mouth, was to be depicted from 1 December. Such warnings are to be rotated every year.

Tobacco companies, which were under an impression that the timeline for ‘mouth cancer’ warning would get pushed back, had made representations to the health ministry requesting for increasing the number of years for implementing particular pictograms from existing one year to two to three years at least.

They reasoned out that existing cigarette stock lying with the retailers could not be withdrawn and remanufactured and this may account to huge losses to them.

The manufacturers requested that they be first allowed to sell the previous stock and that if the new warning come into effect then its duration should be increased to two or three years so that companies do not need to print new packets every year.

“While the health ministry advocates lessening use of tobacco, the request of tobacco industry is being actively considered," the sources said.

The state exchequer earns Rs27,000 crore revenue every year from sale of cigarettes and beedis.

Tobacco majors ITC and Godfrey Phillips India (GPI) have stopped production of cigarettes citing lack of clarity on the issue. An ITC spokesperson had said on Thursday that its “units (for making cigarettes) are shut because of the ambiguity in pictorial warnings to be carried from December 1 onwards."

Similarly, production has been stalled since 1 December onwards at GPI’s two units in India. The development may cost the state exchequer Rs100 crore per day.

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