India: Tobacco majors stop work over warning pics

Dec 3, 2010

The Union health ministry has notified that all tobacco product packages in India will, with immediate effect, have to carry pictorial health warnings depicting a cancer-stricken mouth.

Putting to rest all doubt that government had changed its mind, Union health ministry confirmed to TOI on Thursday that as per original notification, the earlier warning of an infected lung and a scorpion sign will be replaced by gory image of a cancer-stricken mouth from December 1.

Uncertain over what pictorial health warnings had to appear from December 1 on all tobacco packs, two of India’s largest cigarette manufacturers, ITC and Godfrey Phillips India, stalled production at all units on Thursday.

An ITC spokesperson said, “Units making cigarettes are shut because of the ambiguity in pictorial warnings to be carried from December 1 onwards”. Tobacco Institute of India director Udayan Lall said “companies making cigarettes and bidis have been forced to close down production due to the uncertainty regarding the warning”. He said the companies had written a letter to the ministry seeking clarity on the issue. The ministry, however, confirmed the notification to carry photo of a cancer-stricken mouth is in force.

The cigarette companies were hoping that new warnings would get deferred in Cabinet meeting held last Wednesday. However, no such thing happened. This automatically means the notification is in place and tobacco packs have to carry new warnings . Stopping production is just a ploy by the companies to buy time. They are hoping that in next Cabinet meeting on Thursday, the matter will come up and the GoM will change the warnings, a ministry official said.


Source: The Times of India (December 3, 2010)