Rules that mandated 85 percent of a cigarette pack’s surface to be covered in health warnings came in from Friday after being delayed for a year.
While the new norm to put larger pictorial warnings on tobacco items was ready to be doled out, tobacco majors including ITC Ltd and Godfrey Phillips India Ltd have threatened the government by announcing their decision to shut all cigarette factories with effect from April 1.
The Tobacco Institute of India (TII) said the industry was concerned over potential violation of health warning rules by continuing production, adding that the production halt would cost the industry $53 million a day.
India was last year forced to delay implementation of pack warning rules as a parliamentary panel sought time to assess how the industry would be impacted.
The health ministry later decided to implement the rules from April this year, but the panel last month issued a report saying the size of warnings should be reduced to 50 percent in the interest of the industry and tobacco farmers.
Health activists have criticized the panel for favouring the industry. The World Health Organization has called the debate on reducing the warnings size in India “worrisome”. TII, which has called the new rules drastic and impractical, said the industry had written to the health ministry seeking clarification.
“The industry is holding the government to ransom. There is no ambiguity in the rules,” said Amit Yadav, director, southeast Asia region at Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control.
— Aman Singh (@AmanSinghCSR) April 1, 2016