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Stay on health warning rules vacated; jolt to tobacco firms

Bengaluru, Feb 25, 2016, DHNS: 0:24 IST
The Rules of 2014 recommended a new picture for health warnings covering from 40% to 85% on both sides of all tobacco packs to be implemented from April 1, 2015. dh file photo
In a major setback to tobacco companies, the High Court on Wednesday vacated the stay that was granted on December 4, 2015 on rules relating to health warnings on tobacco packs. Justice Ravi Malimath vacated the stay on the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014, that were notified on October 15, 2014.

The Rules of 2014 recommended a new picture for health warnings covering from 40% to 85% on both sides of all tobacco packs to be implemented from April 1, 2015. However the rules were kept in abeyance by the parliamentary committee. Subsequently, the Rajasthan  High Court directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to take steps to implement the pictorial warnings from April 1, 2016 without further delay. According to the rules, the notified health warnings, covering 85% of the principal display area, shall display pictorial warnings on both sides of all tobacco product packages from April 1, 2016.

The petitioners, Tobacco Institute of India and others contended that 85% of pictorial warnings cannot be incorporated on the tobacco products as it results in loss in the business and a large number of families depend on this industry. The petitioners had also stated that as a related matter to pictorial warnings is still pending before the Supreme Court, NGOs must not be allowed to implead in the petitions.

However, the bench allowed an interlocutory application filed by an NGO, Health for Millions, which had also sought directions to vacate the stay. The bench, in the order, stated that the NGOs have been championing the cause against the use of tobacco in order to protect the lives and health of citizens. They have been agitating against the use of tobacco products, which are a key public health concern, the bench observed.

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