India: India's Another Step Towards Plain Packaging Of Cigarettes And Tobacco Products-An Overview Of The Legislations Present

"Many people in the world quit smoking every day- By Dying"1

The irony in the above statement describes in a subtle way the increasing rate of death caused by cancer arising due to smoking of tobacco in various forms. Recently, there has been a tremendous and continuous increase in the percentage of people suffering from cancer caused because of smoking throughout the world. This percentage is even greater in the economically developed countries. India is a home to 12 % of the world's smokers and approximately 900,000 people die every year in India because of smoking (as of 2009)2. Coming to the global context, as per the statistics of the year 2014, "Worldwide 1 billion adults (800 million men and 200 million women) currently smoke cigarettes. The situation demands even more concern as the above statistics does not includes the no. of childhood smokers. Tobacco use kills almost 6 million people worldwide each year, with nearly 80% of these deaths in low- and middle-income countries. Each year 600,000 non-smokers worldwide die from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. By 2030 tobacco will kill a predicted 8 million people worldwide each year. Tobacco use caused 100 million deaths worldwide during the 20th century, and if current trends continue it will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century."3

The Governments of different countries have showed their concerns on the matter and have initiated various legislations and policies to ensure the safeguards and make people aware of the dire consequences of smoking.

India and its legislations regarding smoking-

The very basics of laws confirming the safeguards and health measures of the citizens can be traced from the Constitution itself. Article 47 of the Constitution of India under the Directive Principles of State Policies states that "It shall be the Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health."

The Constitutional mandate flowing from the above article lead to the enactment of first legislation that dealt with smoking in India which was Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1975. The 1975 Act mandated the tobacco industries to provide statutory warnings on the cigarette packets. A landmark judgment on this matter was Murli S. Deora vs Union of India And Ors4. In this case the Hon'ble Supreme Court prohibited smoking in public places like hospitals, educational institutions, auditoriums etc. The Court in this case opined that "Tobacco is universally regarded as one of the major public health hazards and is responsible directly or indirectly for an estimated eight lakh deaths annually in the country. It has also been found that treatment of tobacco related diseases and the loss of productivity caused therein cost the country almost Rs. 13,500 crores annually, which more than offsets all the benefits accruing in the form of revenue and employment generated by tobacco industry".

This case acted as a milestone and lead to the enactment of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. This Act extends to the whole of India including the state of Jammu & Kashmir and is applicable to cigarettes, cigars, bidis, gutka, pan masala (containing tobacco), Mavva, Khaini, snuff and all products containing tobacco in any form.

Another effective legislation that has been enacted to strengthen and ensure the safeguards measure is the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Rules, 2008. These Rules further demonstrate the law pertaining to the packaging format and the amount of statutory warning, messages etc on the wrappings of Cigarettes and other Tobacco products.

Recent Developments regarding plain packaging –

At present, plain packaging laws have been enacted in few countries, Australia being the initiator among them. The plain packaging legislations forbid the use of any kind of logos, attractive packaging measures, emblems, colors, images etc on the packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In July, 2014 Allahabad High Court allowed a petition filed by Love Care Foundation, a non profit organization operating for the welfare of children.5 The organization argued that the attractive packaging of the cigarette and tobacco products are a pseudo mode of advertisement and children are getting more attracted and allured to such products because of this. Evidences were presented from countries where plain packaging was introduced and which resulted in the decrease of consumption of such products. The Respondents Union of India and State of UP did not raise any argument against the petitioners and accepted that this is a step in the right direction. Further, there was no Respondent from the Tobacco Industry as well. Henceforth, the learned High Court directed the government to take appropriate steps in this direction.

Recently, another notification dated 15.10.14 with the name Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2014 has been passed which has provisions that will bring amendments in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Rules, 2008. These Rules will come into effect from 1st April, 2015. The key highlights of these notifications have been mentioned below-

  • The total area covered by the pictorial and statutory warnings on the packets of cigarettes and Tobacco products has been increased from 60 % to 85 % (60% for pictorial health warning & 25% for textual health warning).
  • The textual health warning shall not appear in more than two languages inscribed on the packet.
  • The following details of the manufacturer have to be compulsorily mentioned on the packets
    • Name of the product.
    • Name and address of the manufacturer/ importer of the product.
    • Origin of the product (for import tobacco).
    • Date of manufacture.
    • Any other matter as required by the Central Government as per international practice.
  • There are further many other elaborated instructions related to the statutory warnings to be mentioned on the packets both in textual and pictorial forms.

Conclusion

The legislature's intent with the enactment of these notifications seems to confining and limiting the space available on the packets of cigarettes and other Tobacco products so that the scope of any advertisement attractive packaging etc can be limited to its best extent. Therefore, although we cannot say that it is plain packaging in its true sense but undoubtedly, it is a step on the same line. However, it is to be also kept in mind that the plain packaging laws have also been an issue of controversy in various countries like USA where such laws are still in limbo because of being challenged on grounds of unconstitutionality.

The increase in number of active smokers and the statistics thereto are a matter of utmost concern. Especially, the inclination of children and youngsters towards smoking out of peer pressure and being attracted towards it for its being emerging as a status symbol and fashion statement is highly reprehensible. It is not only the duty of state to bring measures for safeguard of its citizens, but also the responsibility of the citizens to protect their own health and of others living around them.

Footnotes

1 Author Anonymous

2 http://environment.about.com/od/healthenvironment/a/smoking_deaths.htm

3 World Lung Foundation/American Cancer Society. The Tobacco Atlas. Available from: http://www.tobaccoatlas.org

4. 2001 Supp(4) SCR 650

5 Love Care Foundation v. Union of India and Others, Writ Petition No.1078 (M/B) OF 2013.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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