Two Lok Sabha members on Wednesday opposed the idea of expanding the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products, saying it adversely affected farmers and beedi workers and put their livelihood in danger.
Sharad Bansode (BJP) and R Dhruvanarayana (Cong) suggested that the parliamentary committee’s recommendation that the warnings be restricted to 50%, should be adhered to.
Raising the issue in the Zero Hour, Bansode claimed that if “you don’t minimise (the warning size), all bidi workers would be jobless”. He also urged the Prime Minister to address their concerns.
Dhruvanarayana said the parliamentary committee recommendation was not implemented by the government, which increased the warning’s size from 40% to 85%.
Some members, including Supriya Sule (NCP), were seen nodding their head in disapproval as the members spoke.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu noted that public opinion was growing in favour of discouraging smoking.He spoke about public opinion and experts’ warning against tobacco use and said the increase in the pictorial warning size was one step in that direction.
However, he said they would have to evolve a consensus while noting that farmers especially in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka cultivated tobacco. Government alone cannot do it, he said.
“We have to strongly encourage farmers to grow alternative crops. We have to find some solution,” he said.
Naidu added that he is willing to discuss the matter with Congress informally. “We have been discussing it but have not been able to find a meaningful solution,” he said.