Growers urge government to intervene in new tobacco advisory

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) The tobacco growers association here on Friday urged the government to intervene against the Graphic Health Warning directive issued by the health ministry.

The new advisory mandates a revision in the existing warning from 40 percent to 85 percent on both sides of the pack from April 1, 2016.

The farmers, protesting here under the banner of the Federation of All India Farmers Associations (FAIFA), said that by high taxation and pictorial warnings against tobacco use, the government was helping the foreign tobacco suppliers build up a strong market in India.

“The steps government has taken against tobacco … is a threat to the livelihood and survival of the tobacco growers. The onslaught on cigarette industry through punitive taxation and stringent regulations have caused the decline in the revenue of the tobacco growers,” said P.S. Murali Babu, general secretary of FAIFA.

The government was discriminating by not enforcing pictorial warnings on the illegal and contraband cigarettes, thereby creating an impression that such products are safer.

“The farmers fear that the larger graphic health warnings, if implemented, will further lead to increased growth of illegal and smuggled cigarettes in India, thereby affecting their livelihood,” president of FAIFA B.V. Javare Gowda told IANS.

Tobacco is an important cash crop and mostly grown in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

In the last two years, 25 tobacco growers have committed suicide due to the steep fall in tobacco prices due to high taxation.

The delegation, protesting for the last two days, has also met union Health Minister J.P. Nadda over the issue.

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