The Supreme Court on Friday took a dig at the youth, saying they were “not bothered” about any warnings regarding the side-effects of tobacco smoking.
“Do you think all this (pictorial warnings) affect them (youth)? The youth today do not care. They all smoke when they want to,” a bench headed by Justice PC Ghose told advocate Prashant Bhushan when he asked the judges to set aside a Karnataka high court order that stayed the rules under the tobacco prohibition law making it mandatory for the companies to have larger warnings on the products.
Each year, tobacco use kills one million people in India, estimates the Indian Council of Medical Research. Despite bans on advertising, sale to minors and smoking in public places, more than one in three adults smoke and use smokeless tobacco in India.
The Union health ministry has drawn flak for deferring its decision to implement new pictorial warnings that cover 85% of tobacco packs on both sides beginning April 1.
Bhushan said the HC order was in contravention of SC’s earlier verdict that disallowed any other court to deal with tobacco-related cases. “This is detrimental to public interest and has put to naught efforts made over last few years to ensure larger pack warnings on tobacco products,” he told the court.
Though the bench declined to entertain Bhushan’s plea, it allowed his client to move the HC with the plea. “In case the court does not entertain it, you can file a petition seeking transfer of all such cases,” the bench said.
At present, the caution in India is among the weakest in the world, with it occupying only 40% of the surface on one side of the package, covering 20% of the entire packet. According to a 2014 report by the Canadian Cancer Society, India ranks 136th among 198 countries listed according to the size of their health warnings.
Hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements and pictorial pack warnings deter children from starting use and increase the number of people who want to quit, says the World Health Organisation.