The Supreme Court has sought a response from the Centre on the allegations of an NGO that the government under pressure from the “tobacco lobby” was dragging its feet on issuing statutory pictorial warning on cigarette and tobacco products.
“Why are you not implementing it? Millions are being affected, families are getting destroyed,” a bench of Justices B N Aggrawal and G S Singhvi told the Government in a terse observation while issuing notice on the application moved by the NGO, Health For Millions.
The petitioner contended that thousands of people in the country are succumbing to cancer mostly due to the widespread use of cigarettes and tobacco products.
In its application, the NGO complained that though the government originally brought in the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules in 2006 to making it mandatory for all tobacco products to display statutory pictorial warnings, “it was not implemented so far under pressure from the tobacco lobby”.
Under the 2006 rules, the government had initially planned to display “skull and bones” besides a dead body on the packages and labels to caution people on the adverse effects of smoking and using tobacco products.
Later, the government amended the rules in 2007 with a promise that it would be implemented from December 1, 2007 and also watered down the original pictorial warning with “smaller and ineffective warnings,” the application said.
In the meantime, the NGO said the government moved an application in the apex court promising to implement the rules from March 17, 2008. Thereafter, another application was moved by the government promising to implement the rule from November 2008, and further delayed to May 2009.
The petitioner was apprehensive that the government would not implement the rule even from May 2009 on account of the pressure mounted by the “tobacco lobby” whose members, it alleged, have also filed petitions in various high courts seeking stay of the proposed law.
The NGO also wanted the apex court to direct the government to ensure that all cigarette pouches display the actual content of “nicotine” and “tar” — the two key ingredients reportedly responsible for causing cancer.