New Delhi: Under pressure from various quarters, government is set to defer indefinitely the implementation of notification for increasing the size of pictorial warning on tobacco products beyond April one, when it was to come into force.
"It has been deferred. This will not come into effect from April 1. The date from which it will be effective will be notified later," a source in the Health Ministry said about the pictorial warning notification.
The notification regarding amendment to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Rules, 2008 sought increase in the size of specified health warning from the current 40 per cent to 85 per cent of the principal display area of the package of tobacco products.
On implementation of the notification, India will be the only country in the world with largest pictorial warnings on tobacco products.
The deferment move comes in the wake of Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislations (2014-15), headed by BJP MP Dilipkumar Mansukhhal Gandhi, examining the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 and "strongly" urging the government to keep on hold its proposal to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco packets.
Citing "adverse impact" on livelihood of people involved in the tobacco industry, the panel said a large number of representations expressing "serious" apprehensions from MPs as well as other stakeholders against the proposed notification.
Gandhi had also written to Health Minister J P Nadda in this regard seeking deferment of the implementation of the notification.
Ahead of his visit to China to take part in a conference recently, Nadda had, however, said, "We are sticking to the stand. It will come out. Till date we are sticking to the deadline".
The committee had said it was of the "firm" opinion that all apprehensions needed to be comprehensively examined before the amendment notification is brought into force from April 1, 2015.
The Committee, in its report, said it "strongly urges the
government that the implementation of the notification viz GSR 727-E dated October 15, 2014 may be kept in abeyance till the committee finalise the examination of the subject and arrive at appropriate conclusion and present an objective report to the Parliament".
India has the highest prevalence of oral cancer globally, with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases of oral cancers being reported every year, according to a health report submitted by the Ministry of Health in consultation with National Institute of Health and Family Welfare on the ill-effects of chewing tobacco.
A recent MoHFW-WHO supported PHFI study, estimated that the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs 1, 04,500 crores 12 per cent more than the combined state and central government expenditure on health care in the same year.
"It is clear that the Chairman of the Subordinate Legislative Committee Dilip Gandhi has overstepped the mandate. There is no precedence, no provision in the framework of rules of procedure which obligates Ministry of Health to accept recommendations (that to on technical matters of public health significance).
"As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Health can very well reject the recommendations by giving reasons, considering it is an important matter of public health, said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Executive Director, Voluntary Health Association of India.