The Union government’s plan to ban the sale of loose cigarettes has found resistance from within the BJP. At least four ministers including parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu and party leaders from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Wednesday prevailed upon union health minister JP Nadda to go slow in imposing further bans on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
While the Centre’s plan to ban sale of loose cigarettes was borne from health care concerns, Naidu and others flagged the plight of tobacco farmers.
“The tobacco growing farmers have represented that due to stricter laws many of them are forced to stop cultivation without having suitable alternative means of livelihood,” he said. Naidu also argued that such a ban may not actually curb tobacco consumption but only result in a shift to cheaper products like bidi and chewing tobacco.
“Union health minister JP Nadda assured that he will look into all issues pertaining to tobacco and areca nut growers and industry before taking any policy decision,” said a source.
Naidu’s native state, Andhra Pradesh, is one of the major tobacco growing state and India, the second largest tobacco producer in the world, brings more than Rs 6000 crore of foreign exchange annually.
Naidu later spoke to agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh to point out that tobacco and areca nut are important cash crops in large parts of India. According to Naidu, “areca nut, betel leaves are also a part of age-old culture. We need to move cautiously before banning such things.”