Tobacco retailers and traders today staged a protest here to press for reduction in mandatory 85 per cent graphical health warnings on tobacco packages, saying the norm has led to a spurt in smuggling of cigarettes.
Smuggling of tobacco items that have no picture warnings and give an impression to consumers that they are safer has increased after the health ministry's order on pictorial warning, the retailers said.
"Since May 2016, when the size of the health warnings on tobacco products have become larger, we have seen a huge spurt in the availability of smuggled cigarettes," Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangh, which claims to represent 75 lakh traders and retailers, said.
The government issued a notification dated September 24, 2015 for mandatory display of new health warnings covering 85 per cent of the principal display area on all tobacco products from April 1, 2016.
Stating that retailers are selling legal products for which there is a demand, the body said: "There is a concerted attempt by vested interests to destroy the domestic industry, which will lead to unemployment of lakhs of people."
Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangh and its partner trade associations from all over the country held a demonstration outside the Health Ministry premises.
"The anti-tobacco policy is being driven by vested interests promoted by various NGOs who are receiving huge sums of money from international players," Ram Ashrey Mishra, President, Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangh said.