Cigarette brands implement 85 % pictorial warnings

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Cigarette companies, including ITC and Godfrey Phillips, have implemented the new rule requiring 85 per cent pictorial warning, a couple of months after halting production due to lack of clarity on the new regulation. Packs with the new warnings are now available at retail outlets.
According to the companies, the decision was taken following clarity emerging from the directive of the Supreme Court. “In compliance with the interim requirements pending hearing in the Karnataka High Court, ITC started manufacture of its brands of cigarettes with the specified 85 percent graphic health warning in all its factories about three weeks back. The packs with the new pictorial warnings are now available in the market,” said an ITC spokesperson. The implementation comes after the Health Ministry under Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, increased the size of graphic health warnings on tobacco products’ packages from 20 percent to 85 per cent, from April 1, 2016. The order came despite a parliamentary committee recommendation that the warnings be brought down to 50 percent of the package surface area, as it said 85 percent was too harsh on the tobacco industry. Following the order, companies such as ITC — India’s largest cigarette making company — Godfrey Phillips India, Marlboro, and Four Square as well as Red and White had stopped production from April 2 and approached the court.According to Tobacco Institute of India (TII), tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for India as it contributes more than Rs 30,000 crore in tax revenue annually besides earning about Rs 6,000 crore in foreign exchange.
Following the new rule, tobacco farmers and retailers took to streets organizing protests across the country contesting that the new rules would take away their livelihoods, and lead to further growth in the smuggling of cigarettes into the country. It is a believed that cigarettes today are the second most smuggled item into India after gold, and contraband cigarettes have occupied 20% of the market share in India, causing loss to local producers and farmers. Smuggled products are sold cheaper and do not have the mandatory picture warnings as they come from countries like USA and China who have not implemented the picture warning rule, so they are more attractive to the buyer.

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