The protesters raised concerns that the increase in pictorial warning on tobacco packets are helping foreign tobacco brands in India, which do not carry any pictorial warnings.
“Hostile packaging policies such as large unwarranted picture warnings and plain packaging will only go to destroy the local tobacco industry, the majority of which is in the unorganized sector with no employment fall-back for farmers, bidi rollers, workers and retailers,” said a statement issued by the Federation of All India Farmers Association(FAIFA).
From April 1, the Health Ministry’s notification came into force for implementation of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2014. It prescribes larger pictorial warnings, covering 85 per cent of packets on tobacco products.
The protesters, including members from ABPVS (Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangathan), which presents the collective voice of the interests of more than 72 lakh traders, retailers and panwallas, selling tobacco products across India, urged the Government to have win-win tobacco policies.
“A holistic policy must provide for alternative livelihood options to farmers before making consumers switch to foreign tobacco which is what hostile packaging policies will accelerate,” statement from the protesters added.
Earlier in April this year, the members of FAIFA and ABPVS had held a similar protest march. They have also submitted their demands to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Health Minister J P Nadda.
According to the protesters, the bidi industry is the third largest employer after agriculture and construction. Consumers will have no choice but to resort to buying smuggled and foreign tobacco, as past data has firmly established that such measures have failed to reduce tobacco consumption in India.