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No Supreme Court stay, more graphic tobacco pack warnings soon

The notification to be brought into effect from September 1, 2018, also requires the packets to carry a “Quit Today Call” number, an online assistance for those who want to quit tobacco products

india Updated: Jul 16, 2018 23:43 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
tobacco pack warnings,tobacco,Supreme Court
In this Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 photo, a man takes a cigarette from a pack in New Delhi, India. (AP)

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to put on hold Centre’s new notification that stipulates rotation of images of cancer patients on the packets of tobacco products while observing that a large number of persons were suffering from oral cancer.

The notification to be brought into effect from September 1, 2018, also requires the packets to carry a “Quit Today Call” number, an online assistance for those who want to quit tobacco products.

A bench led by Chief Justice refused to entertain an application filed by tobacco companies who cried foul over the amended notification, accusing the government of violating the top court’s order.

They said the SC had in January stayed the Karnataka high court verdict that quashed the government notification, which necessitates a statutory health warning to be printed on packages of cigarettes, paan masala and other tobacco products.

The notification, which amends the 2014 Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling Rules), mandates replacement of current image of a person’s throat with a hole, with more “gruesome pictures of a person’s lips with diseased and purulent growth”. Even the statutory warning line, “Smoking causes throat cancer”, will be replaced with “Smoking causes painful death” and “Tobacco causes cancer.”

Justice DY Chandrachud, also sitting on the bench, observed: “It only talks about change of photos and actual images of cancer patients would be shown. What is the harm?”

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, however, prayed for a stay of the notification and said there has to be “some freedom of choice” or else “business should be closed.”

“Tomorrow if I want to drink and eat chocolate, I should be allowed to do so. If this cannot be allowed then lets close all the business. Why not make it mandatory for chocolate companies to carry a warning that chocolates lead to diabetes,” Rohatgi said, raising the objections.

“But, reasonable restrictions can always be there,” CJI Misra said, reminding Rohatgi.

Justice Chandrachud added: “Also, there is a need for an informed choice in such matters. Ministry is only informed the public (through the statutory warning).”

Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling Rules) of 2008, as amended in 2014, requires that the statutory health warning, to be printed on packages of cigarettes, paan masala, and other tobacco products, shall cover at least 85% of the principal display area.

First Published: Jul 16, 2018 23:42 IST