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The Supreme Court today sought reply of the Centre on a PIL seeking immediate implementation of plain packaging rules for cigarette and other tobacco products on the ground that attractive packaging entices the youth to consume them.
A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice U U Lalit issued notice to the Ministry of Health on the PIL contending that delaying the implementation of plain packaging was in violation of the rights of the citizens under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
The petition said plain packaging was needed in addition to the pictoral health warning as per provisions of Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.
At the beginning of the proceedings, the bench was of the view that the issue was legislative but later agreed with advocate Aishwarya Bhatti, appearing for a senior advocate, himself a victim of tobacco consumption who was diagnosed with tongue cancer, that judicial intervention was required.
The plea filed by senior advocate Umesh Narain Sharma, who has been practicing in the Allahabad High Court, conceded that he has not made any representation to the Government as it has become a major public and health issue.
When the bench wanted that the issue be looked into by the Parliament, the counsel spoke about the strong tobacco lobby.
The PIL said Allahabad High Court had recommended immediate implementation of plain packaging of cigarette and other tobacco products.
"Despite high prevalence of tobacco use and over one million tobacco related deaths yearly in India and despite clear recommendation of the Allahabad High Court to implement plain packaging of cigarette and other tobacco products,Centre has taken no steps to discourage attractive packaging of tobacco products and implement plain packaging," the PIL said.
The PIL contended that presently in India tobacco products
are packed "in very attractive packaging to entice youths to take up tobacco consumption. Such packaging also draws attention away from health warning and make them redundant."
"Therefore, to counter this tactics of the Industry, plain packaging is the best strategy which would prohibit brand colours, logos and graphics on tobacco packages, thus eliminating package as mini-billboards that promote tobacco.
"Required health warnings would appear on packages, but the branded part of the package would have a standard colour for all brands," it said.
It also referred to the acceptance of plain packaging by several other countries including Australia, United Kingdom and France and said "there is an urgent need to discourage tobacco consumption and one such way is to communicate to consumer the possible health hazards arising out of use and consumption of tobacco."
"This is achieved by including large pictorial health warnings on the packaging of tobacco products. Pictorial Health Warnings (PHWs) are one of the most effective public health measures to inform the public about the harms of tobacco products," it said.