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Wednesday, February 07, 2001



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Govt crackdown on tobacco -- Bill soon to ban smoking in public, event sponsorship

Our Bureau


IN a move that would arm the Government with adequate powers to launch a rigorous anti-tobacco programme throughout the country, the Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal to ban smoking in public places and to enact a comprehensive legislation aim ed at discouraging use of tobacco products.

``The Government would bring a Bill in the Budget session of Parliament which would replace the existing Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1975,'' Mr Pramod Mahajan, Union Parliamentary Affairs, told newspersons after a meeting of the Union Cabinet here.

The proposed Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation) Bill 2001 seeks to impose a total ban on sponsoring of sports and cultural events by cigarette and other tobacco product companies. Once the Bill is enacted, Mr Mahajan said that ``no person shall engage in smoking in public places.''

In an attempt to discourage adolescents from consuming tobacco products, the legislation will also forbid its sale to persons below the age of 18 years.

Further, Mr Mahajan said that the Bill sought to prohibit advertising of all tobacco products. ``The Bill provides that no person engaged in tobacco products-related activity will advertise and no person having control over media shall advertise tobacco products,'' he said.

The Minister said that the Bill, which would regulate trade and commerce in production, supply and distribution of all tobacco products, was being introduced to ``protect non-smokers from the hazards of passive smoking and also to discourage adolescents from consuming tobacco products.''

Besides cigarettes, cigars, cheroots, bidis, cigarette tobacco, hukka tobacco, chewing tobacco, piped tobacco, pan masala and gutka, the proposed legislation would cover chewing material of every kind which has tobacco as one of its ingredients, official s said.

Mr Mahajan sought to defend the decision of the Government to introduce such a Bill by pointing out that nearly one-third of the three million tobacco-related deaths worldwide occurred in India. ``For providing treatment to the various persons suffering from tobacco-related diseases nearly Rs 13,517 crore would be required which is much more than what is earned by the production and sale of tobacco products,'' he said.

On packaging of tobacco products, the proposed legislation will mandate disclosure of `warnings' on the packages which will have to match the size of the largest panel of the package. ``Nicotine and tar contents will have to be indicated on the package. The language of the warning on the package will be in English and in Indian languages,'' Mr Mahajan said.

Mr Mahajan said that all violations of the provisions of the proposed legislation would lead to confiscation of goods. ``Offences like smoking in public places and sale to minors will be compoundable with a fine up to Rs 100,'' he said.

For other convictions, the punishment proposed is imprisonment up to three years with fine up to Rs 1 lakh or both for the first conviction. For the second and subsequent conviction, there will be imprisonment extending up to three years with fine which may extend up to Rs 2 lakhs or both.

`A hypocritical move': Meanwhile, reacting to this announcement, advertising industry officials expressed disappointment over the proposed move of the Government. ``The stand of the Government, to prohibit advertising of tobacco products, seems to be hyp ocritical as it allows manufacture and sale of tobacco products as a legal activity,'' an advertising industry official, who sought anonymity, said.

It was pointed out by industry observers that ITC, which is touted to be the second largest advertiser among the corporates, had incurred about Rs 185.09 crore towards advertising and sales promotion expenditure for the year ended March 31,2000 (Rs 201.2 4 crore during fiscal 1998-99). Godfrey Philips India had incurred about Rs 85 crore towards advertising and sales promotion expenses for the year ended March 31,2000 (Rs 65.03 crore during fiscal 1998-99).

Related links:
WHO builds case for tobacco ad ban
`High tax key to curbing tobacco use'

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