Plain packaging will boost illegal cigarette trade, says TTI

New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Plain Packaging of tobacco products, if adopted in India, will destroy the legal cigarette industry and boost illegal trade, which has anyway increased since the implementation of pictorial warnings covering 85 percent of pack surface, the Tobacco Institute of India (TII) said on Monday.

“The government has implemented 85 percent pictorial warnings in India. These excessively large warnings are anti-farmer and anti-Indian brands and will lead to unrelenting growth in smuggled international brands into the country,” said the TTI in a statement.

Any proposal to implement plain packaging in India on the back of the 85 percent pictorial warnings will be a further assault on the Intellectual Property Rights of legal manufacturers and promote the cause of smuggled foreign brands, it stressed.

The statement came after the World Heal Organization (WHO) declared plain packaging as the theme for World No Tobacco Day this year.

According to a recent study by Ficci, illegal cigarettes account for a huge 20.2 percent slice of the cigarette industry and results in a loss of Rs.9,000 crore of government revenue.

“Smuggled international cigarettes, growing rapidly in the country, do no use Indian tobaccos, posing a direct threat to the domestic tobacco demand with huge livelihood implication for 45.7 million people employed in the sector,” said the statement.

The organisation, which is the only representative for tobacco farmers in India, also urged the government to recognise the vital role that tobacco plays in Indian economy and the unique nature of tobacco consumption in the country which makes implementation of plain packaging practically difficult.

Emphasising that tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for India, TII said that it contributes more than Rs.30,000 crore in tax revenue annually besides earning around Rs.6,000 crore in foreign exchange through tobacco exports.

“The propaganda of the foreign anti-tobacco activists towards extreme packaging regulations is motivated and unwarranted, ignoring the unique Indian tobacco consumption pattern,” the statement said.

–IANS

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