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Monday, May 13, 2002

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Cigarette cos, tobacco growers want panel proposals dropped



CIGARETTE manufacturers and industry associations continue to mount pressure on the Government to refrain from accepting a recommendation of the Standing Committee of Parliament, leading to the complete ban on sale of cigarettes and tobacco products within a radius of 500 yards of educational institutions.

The domestic tobacco industry representatives are also suggesting that the proposal to have pictorial depictions on packages of tobacco products should also be dropped, whether it is skull and cross bones or, any other depiction.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee had in its report on "The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (prohibition of advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Bill, 2000'' recommended that pictorial depictions like skull and cross bones, in addition to written warnings, be printed on every package of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In a recent letter to the Union Health Minister, Mr C.P. Thakur, an industry association has held that a "radius of 500 yards converts into an area greater than 160 acres''. Such a restriction, if applied as proposed, would practically lead to the extinction of all tobacco sales throughout the country, the letter stated.

It has been held that such a proposal is redundant since the Bill already has a clause banning sales of tobacco products to minors.

Further, the domestic industry has also claimed that the requirement to print pictorial warnings is totally "impracticable'' in India and does not exist anywhere in the world, except may be in an isolated instance.

At the same time, the domestic industry has concurred with the recommendation of the Standing Committee that the scope of the Bill should be expanded to cover all tobacco products, instead of limiting it to cigarettes, in the country.

Further, the issue of making foreign TV channels accountable to ensure that they do not beam tobacco advertising into the country has also found favour with a section of the domestic cigarette manufacturers.

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