ITC and Godfrey Phillips India (GPI) have stopped production of cigarettes in view of uncertainty over the sort of pictorial warnings needed to be carried on tobacco products from this month.
The companies said there was no clarity on types of warnings to be carried on the packages. ITC, the maker of India Kings, Gold Flake and Navy Cut, stopped production at all the five units located across India from yesterday. It has manufacturing facilities in Bangalore, Munger, Saharanpur and Kolkata.
A spokesperson at ITC confirmed the development. “Units are shut because of ambiguity in pictorial warnings to be carried from December 1 onwards,” the spokesperson said.
Similarly, production has been stalled since December 1 onwards at GPI’s two units in India. It makes brands like Four Square, Red and White and Cavanders. “Yes, we have stopped production at our two units,” Neeta Kapur, vice-president, marketing, GPI, said.
ITC’s revenues per day from cigarettes stand at around Rs 25 crore. Cigarettes account for more than 40 per cent of the company’s revenues and 80 per cent of its profits. For the year ended March 31, 2010, revenues from cigarettes stood at Rs 9,321 crore.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had notified in May that all tobacco product packages in the country must carry pictorial health warnings depicting a cancer- stricken mouth etc, from December 1, 2010.
According to the Action Council against Tobacco - India, the government is set to delay the notified “mouth cancer”.
“As per the latest available reports from the health ministry, which has led to anger and disappointment among tobacco control activists and health professionals, the ministry is likely to approach the Cabinet to water down pack warnings rules by proposing rotation of warnings every two years, instead of the mandated 12 months. Further, the ministry is also planning to drop the current notified warning, which is evidence-based and field-tested, by replacing it with a less gory alternate picture to be developed by the Directorate of Advertisement and Visual Publicity,” said a council release.
Meanwhile, the government said it was considering a request from the tobacco industry to increase the duration of display of a particular pictorial warning in cigarette packets.