Plain packaging of tobacco products, if adopted in India, will destroy the legal cigarette industry and boost illegal trade, which has anyway increased since the implementation of pictorial warnings covering 85 percent of pack surface, the Tobacco Institute of India (TII) said on Monday.
“The government has implemented 85 per cent pictorial warnings in India. These excessively large warnings are anti-farmer and anti-Indian brands and will lead to unrelenting growth in smuggled international brands into the country,” said the TTI in a statement.
Any proposal to implement plain packaging in India on the back of the 85 per cent pictorial warnings will be a further assault on the Intellectual Property Rights of legal manufacturers and promote the cause of smuggled foreign brands, it stressed.
The statement came after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared plain packaging as the theme for World No Tobacco Day this year.
According to a recent study by Ficci, illegal cigarettes account for a huge 20.2 percent slice of the cigarette industry and results in a loss of Rs.9,000 crore of government revenue.
“Smuggled international cigarettes, growing rapidly in the country, do no use Indian tobaccos, posing a direct threat to the domestic tobacco demand with huge livelihood implication for 45.7 million people employed in the sector,” said the statement.
Emphasising that tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for India, TII said that it contributes more than Rs.30,000 crore in tax revenue annually besides earning around Rs 6,000 crore in foreign exchange through tobacco exports.
Meanwhile, members of Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) -- an organisation representing tobacco growers -- has also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider a roll-back of the 85 per cent graphic warning rule and withhold policy makers from “one-sided” policy consultation on devastating tobacco packaging policies citing that foreign- funded agencies are propagating plain packaging on tobacco products so that foreign tobacco can rule the Indian market.
Gadde Seshagiri Rao, vice-president of the FAIFA, said hostile packaging policies such as large unwarranted picture warnings and plain packaging will destroy the local tobacco industry, the majority of which is unorganised sector with no employment fall-back option for farmers, beedi rollers, workers and retailers.
“Beedies are made in India and are unique to India and the beedi 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,” Rao said.