'Industry pressure led to deferment of tobacco warnings'

According to NGO Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) that filed the RTI, the government has "admitted" that the new pictorial warnings on tobacco packs have been deferred because of the "pressure" exerted by the industry and other interested parties.

"Considering the numerous representations received from industry and individuals including shopkeepers, retailers etc, specifically on the time schedule given for the implementation of the new pictorial warnings, extension of date was given from June 1 to Dec 1, 2010, so as to take care of the genuine technical issues associated with the manufacture," the health ministry stated in its reply.

Representations have been received from the industry, including the Tobacco Institute of India, ITC Limited, Pan Masala Association of India, All India Bidi Industry Federation and Pan Shop Owners Association, among others the reply said.

The ministry also revealed letters received from various tobacco industry groups. One of them, from ITC and dated March 5, 2010 said: "Rotation of designs every year is not worthwhile as any changes in the graphic elements of the tobacco packs will require substantial redesign of the packs which in turn would necessiate procuring of new printing cylinders and ancillary equipments for a large number of packs."

A letter from the Pan Shop Owners Association said: "Our members have already accepted the reality of the pictorial warnings and the severe impact on their business but we strongly feel that the new notification would cause great damage to the livelihoods of our members."
The cabinet took a decision Dec 7 to further defer the pictorial warnings by a year.

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