New Delhi: From April 1, 2015 every tobacco product was to have carried 85% pictorial warnings, however, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare issued a notification vide GSR No. 228(E) dated 26th March 2015 postponing the implementation of the new pictorial pack warnings. The reason given was that the Committee on Subordinate Legislation (COSL) had asked the implementation be kept in indefinite abeyance.
The Rajasthan High Court in its order dated 3rd July 2015 stayed the operation of the Corrigendum thus effectively ordering the Government to implement 85% pictorial warnings on both sides of all tobacco products. In response MoHFW gave an affidavit that they would do so from April 1, 2016. However the story did not end there. The Committee on Subordinate Legislation (CoSL) has now submitted it’s Report recommending a diluted 50% pictorial pack warnings. Public Health activists state that the CoSL has wrongly quoted facts and has taken the tobacco industry side and forsaking the interests of public health. They also state that the views of the Judiciary.
Speaking on recommendations made by the CoSL, Sh. Dinesh Trivedi, Member of Parliament mentioned that “The CoSL has gone beyond its mandate which is to only look into whether an Order or Rule tabled in Parliament is in accord with the general objects of the Constitution or the Act pursuant to which it is made. The CoSL is not supposed to look into whether a Rule is suitable or not.”
Government must take wise decision to save our population from tobacco than recommendations made by such a committee.
Aishwarya Bhati, Supreme Court Lawyer said, “the recommendations of the this CoSL are regressive and go against the Rajasthan High Court that has ordered the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India to implement the 85% pack warnings from 1st April 2016. In fact, the Supreme Court has already ordered “Issue Rule” for plain packaging, which means they have asked why plain packaging should not be implemented.”
Plain packaging goes beyond 85% pictorial warnings.
Public health professionals have decried the CoSL report saying that the committee is still asking for studies to prove that tobacco is harmful. CoSL wants the Government spend more resources on creating awareness whereas Public Health activists point out that world over the best strategy is to put the warnings on the tobacco packets itself at no cost to the public exchequer.
CoSL has also objected to the proposed pictorial warning on the grounds that it will reduce tobacco use.