Row over suspension of bigger warnings on tobacco products

Row over suspension of bigger warnings on tobacco products

The Union Health Ministry's decision to indefinitely suspend printing of bigger pictorial warnings on tobacco products has kicked up a political storm.

Opposition leaders have accused the NDA government of siding with the tobacco industry. Two BJP Parliament members added fuel to the fire by claiming absence of medical evidence that links tobacco with cancer. Dilip Gandhi, a three-term MP from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra and a former minister in the Vajpayee government, gave interviews claiming no Indian survey shows tobacco causes cancer.

Gandhi heads a Parliamentary panel that asked the Health Ministry to put the notification on hold as the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, which is reviewing the anti-tobacco rules, is yet to complete its consultation with all the stakeholders. The notification, mandating printing of statutory health warnings on both sides of a tobacco pack covering 85 per cent of the principle display area, was to come into effect from April 1.

Gandhi was joined by Allahabad MP Shyama Charan Gupta who, in a letter to Gandhi on November 13, 2014, said there was no medical evidence that bidis cause cancer.

“Bidis are natural products. They are very small as compared to cigarettes, and there is very little tobacco in each bidi. Hence, the harmful effects are nil as compared to cigarettes and chewing tobacco. There is no medical evidence that shows bidis cause cancer,” said Gupta in his letter.

“All agree on the harmful effects of tobacco. But there is no Indian survey report to prove that tobacco consumption leads to cancer. All the studies are done abroad,” he added.
DH News Service

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