Starting Friday, a pictorial warning that covers 85 percent of tobacco product packaging surfaces is required, an official statement said. This is in addition to current text-based warning labels.
Tobacco product manufacturers in India on Friday decided to shut down factories with immediate effect citing ‘ambuguity’ in pictorial warning policy.
This decision is followed by Centre’s notification that tobacco products manufactured from Friday onwards will carry larger pictorial warnings covering 85% of the display area on the packet.
The Health Ministry’s notification of September 24, 2015, for implementation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014, prescribing larger pictorial warnings on tobacco products came into force from Friday.
Notwithstanding a parliamentary panel’s recommendation which had described the government’s proposal as “too harsh” and wanted a drastic reduction in the size of the visual warning, the Centre went ahead with the larger pictorial warnings.
The Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation had recommended that the message occupy 50% of the space.
“The committee is of the view that in order to have a balanced approach, the warning on cigarette packets should be 50% on both sides of the principal display area instead of 85% of the principal display area as it will be too harsh and result in the flooding of illicit cigarettes in the country,” the committee said in the report.
The stand had evoked sharp criticism from MPs and health experts. In its report submitted to Lok Sabha, committee chairman Dilip Gandhi justified the recommendations, saying it was urged that the size of the warnings be increased from the present 40 to 50%.
The ministry had made a commitment to the Rajasthan High Court on March 28 that it will implement the said rules from April 1, 2016.