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SC seeks Centre’s reply on plain packaging of tobacco products

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the Centre’s reply on a PIL, seeking immediate implementation of plain packaging rules for cigarette and other tobacco products on the ground that attractive packaging entices the youth to consume them.

A Bench, comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice UU Lalit, issued notice to the Ministry of Health on the PIL, contending that delaying the implementation of plain packaging was in violation of the rights of citizens under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The petition stated that plain packaging was needed in addition to pictoral health warning as per provisions of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.

At the beginning of the proceedings, the Bench was of the view that the issue was legislative, but later agreed with advocate Aishwarya Bhatti, appearing for a senior advocate, himself a victim of tobacco consumption who was diagnosed with tongue cancer, that judicial intervention was required.

The plea filed by senior advocate Umesh Narain Sharma, who has been practising in the Allahabad high court, conceded that he has not made any representation to the government as it has become a major public and health issue.

When the Bench wanted that the issue be looked into by the Parliament, the counsel spoke about the strong tobacco lobby. The PIL said that the Allahabad high court had recommended immediate implementation of the plain packaging of cigarette and other tobacco products.

“Despite high prevalence of tobacco use and over one million tobacco-related deaths yearly in India and despite clear recommendation of the Allahabad high court to implement plain packaging of cigarette and other tobacco products,the Centre has taken no steps to discourage attractive packaging of tobacco products and implement plain packaging,” the PIL said.

The PIL contended that in India tobacco products are packed “in very attractive packaging to entice youths to take up tobacco consumption. Such packaging also draws attention away from health warning and make them redundant.” 

“Therefore, to counter this tactics of the Industry, plain packaging is the best strategy, which would prohibit brand colours, logos and graphics on tobacco packets, thus eliminating package as mini-billboards that promote tobacco. Required health warnings would appear on packages, but the branded part of the package would have a standard colour for all brands,” it said.

It also referred to the acceptance of plain packaging by several other countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and France and said, “There is an urgent need to discourage tobacco consumption and one such way is to communicate to consumers the possible health hazards arising out of the use and consumption of tobacco.” 
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