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NEW DELHI: Almost five months after the Health Ministry decided to indefinitely delay making it mandatory to have large pictorial warnings on all tobacco products in India, it has now decided to implement them from April 1 next year.
The move comes came to light a day before a crucial hearing in the Rajasthan High Court which, hearing a public interest litigation, had asked the Centre to immediately implement larger tobacco warnings citing public interest and health concerns.
The court had also warned it would take action against the union health secretary if there was any delay in implementing its order.
Health activists however allege that this latest offer to implement warnings from April next year is only an excuse to give the tobacco industry and vested interested more time to delay a rollout.
“They were ready to roll out the new warnings in April this year but called it off just days before. There is no reason to now delay it further,” said Rahul Joshi, an activist who had petitioned the high court.
Mr Joshi’s relative had died due to tobacco use and he says larger warnings will dissuade young tobacco consumers from taking up the habit.
In march this year, the Health Ministry had deferred the rollout of bigger warnings in after a Parliamentary panel had asked for more time to study the health impacts of tobacco products.
The head of the panel BJP MP Dilip Gandhi had flared up a raging controversy after he said that there were no Indian studies linking tobacco use to cancer.