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MPs for shelving health warnings on tobacco product packs

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): The parliamentarians have asked the health ministry to shelve its notification of making it mandatory for cigarette and bidi companies to increase the specified health warning from the current 40% to 85% of the display area of the package. In view of rising incidences of cancer and other diseases due to inhaling or chewing of tobacco products, the ministry of health in a notification had asked the companies to put up warning starting from April 2015.

The 15-member parliamentary committee on subordinate legislations led by BJP MP Dilipkumar Mansukhlal Gandhi said it was necessary to consult and take into account all divergent views before arriving at appropriate conclusions. Therefore, it asked the health ministry to keep the order issued in October 2014 and about to be enforced from April 2015, in abeyance till the committee finalises its examination of the subject.

The panel said they have received a large number of representations from the MPs as well as various stakeholders involved in bidi/tobacco/cigarette trade against the proposed notification. They have expressed serious apprehensions on the livelihood of a large number of people directly or indirectly involved in the trade. Shyama Charan Gupta, MP from Allahabad in his presentation to the committee argued that bidi are natural product and there was no medical evidence that bidis cause cancer. Minister said there are 20 lakh adivasis who earn Rs1,100 crore a year for plucking tendu leaves, the MP further submitted that number of dependent persons on bidi trade were about 1.30 crore. Bedi manufacturers told committee that if 85% area was to be earmarked for health warning, there will be no space left for printing brand logo/name and other details.

The panel in its report to Lok Sabha said they were yet to hear the views of other stakeholders and experts in the field as well as are awaiting the formal evidence from ministry of health and family welfare. It has now also asked other ministries especially the ministry of labour and employment, ministry of agriculture to present its views and to find out socio-economic ramifications before giving go ahead to the notification.

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