Slamming the decision of tobacco manufacturers to halt production, the Central Indian government on Saturday hardened its stand on the implementation of larger pictorial warnings on such products, saying it will take all the necessary steps to curb tobacco use in the country.
The Union Health Ministry said there is "no ambiguity" in the policy in this regard and it has been made "crystal clear" that products packaged after April 1 will have to carry larger warnings.
"We want to clarify that there is no ambiguity. This is a bogey raised by the tobacco industry. The case is crystal clear. We had issued the notification in September last year.
If they had found an ambiguity, why did they send their letter in March, 2016," a senior ministry official said.
The comment comes a day after major cigarette manufacturers, including ITC, Godfrey Phillips and VST, decided to shut all their factories and stop production citing an "ambiguity" in the policy mandating larger pictorial warnings covering 85 per cent of the packaging space.
The ministry's September 24, 2015, notification for the implementation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014, which prescribes larger pictorial warnings on tobacco products came into force on Friday.
Sources said the ministry implemented the decision after the Rajasthan High Court directed it to do so. They added that the tobacco manufacturers "should go to the court if they have an issue with the government's notification".
Notwithstanding a parliamentary panel's recommendation for a drastic reduction in the size after it described the proposal for 85 per cent pictorial warning as being "too harsh", the Centre has gone ahead with its implementation.