Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Apr 11, 2003
Industry & Economy
Agri-Biz & Commodities - Tobacco
Bill makes smoking a pipe-dream
P.T. Jyothi Datta
NEW DELHI, April 10
SMOKING is all set on the road to being snuffed out of public life, with the `skull and bones' logo implying danger likely to find itself on the package of every tobacco product - courtesy the Tobacco Control Bill.
Walking the fine-line between the interests of tobacco farmers, manufacturers of tobacco products and the health of people, the amended Tobacco Control Bill, passed in Parliament, has adopted all but one of the Standing Committee's recommendations.
While the amended Bill does not allow you to smoke in an amusement centre, restaurants, railway waiting rooms, public offices or any place visited by "general public", it allows you to grab a puff "in an open space''. Also, it provides for the designation of "smoking areas" in airports, hotels with 30 rooms and restaurants with 30 seats.
The modified `The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade and commerce, production, supply and distribution) Bill, 2001' now paves the way to bring the tobacco industry under the Centre's control. The Bill, in its original form, targeted only cigarettes and had left the manufacture and promotion of tobacco products in the hands of State Governments, Health Ministry officials told Business Line.
Now all tobacco products, including cigarettes, have been brought under the purview of the Bill, that prohibits advertising, including sponsorship and surrogate promotions.
In the only departure that the Bill makes from the Standing Committee's recommendation, of banning cigarette and tobacco product sale within a 500-yard radius from an educational institution, the Government has "modified" this parameter. Instead, the Bill now specifies that cigarettes and tobacco products be banned only within a radius of 100 yards from educational institutions.
Commenting on whether this was a dilution, the Ministry official said that 100 yards was the "practical" option, since "in metros a 500 yard radius would bring it into the vicinity of another educational institution."
The recommendation for a pictorial depiction of danger, in addition to the statutory warning, to caution illiterate consumers of tobacco products has been adopted by the amended Bill. "The skull and bones logo is most likely to be made mandatory, but details like the size and colour will be defined in the rules that would be framed subsequently," the official said.
Besides cigarettes, as originally indicated by the Bill, now all tobacco products would have to indicate its nicotine and tar content, besides giving the maximum permissible limit. "This can be implemented only when companies have the equipment to measure and provide such detail," the official observed.
The amended Bill has made a distinction between violations made by the retailers and manufacturers of tobacco products. "The punishment involves imprisonment and fines ranging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000. It was pointed out that the punishment envisaged by the original Bill was too harsh in comparison to other legislations. The punishment subsequently arrived at by the committee was after this was taken into account," the official said.
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