However, a parliamentary committee has recommended more discussion on this, allowing tobacco firms a breather.
The head of that panel, BJP law-maker Dilip Kumar Gandhi, told NDTV today that India has little independent evidence to link cigarettes and cancer. “Does this (smoking) cause cancer or does not? What are the impacts? We have never done our own survey,” he said.
It will be upto the government to decide whether to accept the parliamentary panel’s recommendations, but activists say the missed deadline does not bode well.
“This is just a front for the tobacco industry, it’s going to affect the bottom line of companies and that’s the smoke screen they have put up,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Executive Director of the Voluntary Health Association of India.
“In a country like ours, where a large section of the population cannot read or write and more users are coming on board, pictorial warnings are the need of the hour,” she stressed.
In November, health campaigners had welcomed India’s plans to raise the age for tobacco purchases to 25 and ban unpackaged cigarette sales, calling them a major step towards stopping nearly one million tobacco-related deaths a year.
The plans were announced by Health Minister JP Nadda in Parliament but have not progressed.
Around 900,000 people die of tobacco-related illnesses in India each year, the second-highest number after China, and experts predict that could rise to 1.5 million by the end of the decade.
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