Tobacco farmers, retailers demand roll-back of pictorial warnings

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New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) Over 300 tobacco farmers and retailers held a protest here on Tuesday demanding roll-back of the 85 per cent pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco products, saying it was

The protesters said the increase in pictorial warnings on tobacco packets was helping foreign tobacco brands in India, which do not carry any pictorial warnings.

“Hostile packaging policies such as large unwarranted picture warnings and plain packaging will only go to destroy the local tobacco industry, the majority of which is in the unorganized sector with no employment fall-back for farmers, bidi rollers, workers and retailers,” said a statement issued by the association.

According to the protesters, the bidi industry is the third largest employer after agriculture and construction. Consumers will have no choice but to resort to buying smuggled and foreign tobacco, as past data has firmly established that such measures have failed to reduce tobacco consumption in India.

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Gadde Seshagiri Rao, Vice- President, FAIFA (Federation of All India Farmers Association), said: “Every available data and case study across the world point to only one conclusion – that hostile packaging policies are here to only help foreign tobacco at the cost of the livelihood of Indian farmers and workers in the large unorganized sector in India.”

“Clearly foreign vested interests have gone too far into influencing India’s tobacco policies, forcing the Government to do things which not a single major country with similar economic dependence on tobacco has ever done in the world,” said Seshagiri.

The protesters, including members from ABPVS (Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangathan), which presents the collective voice of the interests of more than 72 lakh traders, retailers and panwallas, selling tobacco products across India, urged the Government to have win-win tobacco policies, and not entertain one-sided interests.

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“A holistic policy must provide for alternative livelihood options to farmers before making consumers switch to foreign tobacco which is what hostile packaging policies will accelerate,” statement from the protesters said.

Earlier, the protesters had also protested at an event where Health Minister J.P. Nadda was invited as chief guest to mark World No Tobacco Day.



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