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Cigarette brands in India implement 85 percent pictorial warnings

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New Delhi: International cigarette companies including ITC and Godfrey Phillips have implemented the rule requiring 85 percent pictorial warning, they said on Tuesday.

According to the companies, the decision was taken following the Supreme Court ruling making the new rule mandatory, even if the case was transferred back to Karnataka High Court.

“It is a welcome change to see old packets with 40 percent warnings on one side of the pack giving way to new packs with larger warnings… There was criticism against the industry that the companies had flooded the market with old stocks in the absence of any clear guideline from the government on the date by which these should be exhausted,” said a statement from the companies.

“We have implemented the 85 percent pictorial warnings and now they can be seen on the new packets in the market,” a company spokesman told IANS.

The implementation comes after the Health Ministry under Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA) increased the size of graphic health warnings on tobacco products from 20 percent to 85 percent. It came into effect on April 1, 2016.

The order came despite a parliamentary committee recommendation that the warnings be brought down to 50 percent of the package surface area, as it said 85 percent was too harsh on the tobacco industry.

Following the order, companies such as ITC — India’s largest cigarette making company, Godfrey Philips India, Marlboro, and Four Square as well as Red and White had stopped production from April 2 onwards and approached the court.

According to Tobacco Institute of India (TII), tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for India as it contributes more than Rs30,000 crore in tax revenue annually besides earning about Rs6,000 crore in foreign exchange.

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