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Tobacco retailers demand review of ‘85% graphic health warnings’ on products

Retailers of paan, bidi, cigarette and other tobacco products came out on streets in Hyderabad today protesting against a new rule to implement 85% graphic health warnings on tobacco products in India.

The new rule, which requires 85% graphic health warnings to be carried on tobacco products, is seen by micro retailers of tobacco products as ‘livelihood threatening’.

Micro retailer were protesting under the aegis of Pan Shops Owners Association of India (PSOA), which presents the collective voice of the interests of more than 1.5 lakhs traders, retailers and panwallas, selling tobacco products across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“Retailers are protesting against an uncertain and a livelihood threatening policy environment towards tobacco products and insistence to roll out 85% graphic health warnings in India,” read a statement from PSOA of India.

Retailers said they were unhappy in being made the face and vehicle to deliver the horrific messages through products, which are the core of their bread and butter.

Speaking on the occasion, PSOA of India president Rangaraj Shankar Rao asked why does the Government of India want them to be surrounded by horrifying pictures.

“These horrifying pictures will have huge negative impact on our psyche and can possibly disturb our peace of mind and drive us to become mentally imbalance. We totally disagree and deny to deliver such message. Please do not drive poor retailer to become mentally imbalance and criminals”, he said.

“If USA, which is considered the epitome of health and democratic rights in the world have found graphic health warnings unconstitutional, then what argument does India have to push large, shocking warnings of 85% on tobacco packs? In a country with huge socio economic role of tobacco, large pictorial warnings is uncalled for especially when the rules have been framed in undemocratic manner”, Rao added.

PSOA of Telangana president Satish Naik tendered a request for the recall of the “undemocratic rule” of 85% warnings.

These rules were framed without following a consultative process and these are inconsistent with the principles of legislation making. They were totally driven by the anti-tobacco lobby,” he said.

“Non-Government members of the Expert Committee which formulated these rules were all NGO’s and anti-tobacco activists, making the decision one-sided and biased.

“There are 45.7 million people dependent on the tobacco industry in India, including farmers, labour, workers and trade and no organization or individual representing their interest was consulted or heard when the rules were framed in 2014. There is more to this than what is visible, which needs to be uncovered.”

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