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India’s Supreme Court on Monday put on hold a lower court’s order that quashed federal rules mandating larger health warnings on tobacco packages, according to a Reuters story.
The Karnataka High Court last month struck down the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014, which had enlarged the warnings to 85 percent of the two principal faces of packages of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The rules had been in force since 2016.
The Supreme Court, which heard petitions brought forward by tobacco-control activists, stayed the Karnataka court’s order on Monday, citing the need to protect the health of citizens.
The case is due to be heard next on March 12.
The introduction in India of bigger tobacco-pack health warnings has seen a number of false starts and U-turns.
The government issued a notification on October 15, 2014, requiring the printing of graphic health warnings on tobacco packs covering 85 percent of each of the two main surfaces. But the policy was referred to a parliamentary committee that recommended in March 2016 that, instead, the warnings should be set at 50 percent.
The government, however, decided at the end of March 2016 to go ahead with its requirement for 85 percent warnings from April 1 of that year.
In response, ITC, India’s dominant cigarette manufacturer, announced on April 2 that it had halted production at its cigarette factories because it was not ready to print the bigger, graphic warnings on its cigarette packs. The company said that its factories would be shut till clarity emerged on the matter.
The country’s other manufacturers also halted production on April 1 and bidi manufacturers followed their lead sometime later.
ITC said on April 2 that because the question of the legality of the new warnings had been and continued to be pending before the courts, it had not committed to investing substantial resources in creating the large number of printing cylinders and other tools necessary for a change to the warnings. The implementation of health-warning changes was an elaborate process entailing months of preparation and involving substantial costs.
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