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Anti-tobacco measures tough to roll out

Even as the Centre recently came out with new ideas to reduce cigarette/tobacco  consumption in the country, their implementation may not be easy, say industry representatives and analysts.

While the expert committee constituted by ministry of health and welfare has recommended a complete ban on selling loose cigarette sticks across the country, critics are pointing at the challenge of executing such a recommendation. There’s no mechanism to restrict sale of loose sticks across 20 million retail outlets in India, they said.

Cigarette companies earn a substantial chunk of their revenue from sale of loose cigarettes, with the youth forming a majority chunk buying these products. According to an analyst at Sharekhan, the move is commendable but hard to exercise. “Even a company like ITC, which sells three out of every four cigarettes sold in India, cannot monitor if the recommendation by the health ministry committee is eventually implemented.”

There’s also doubt on whether the government’s directive on cigarette packs devoting 85% surface space to health warning can be implemented or not.

“In our view the proposed warnings are unreasonable, drastic and impractical to implement and enforce. The existing graphic health warnings at 40% are adequate to inform and caution a person,” Syed M Ahmad, director, the Tobacco Institute of India, an industry body, said when contacted. The proposal to further increase the size of the warnings is completely unwarranted and unnecessary, he said. ”It is indeed surprising that in the process of revision of the size of the warnings, there has been no consultation with the stakeholders of the tobacco industry who will be impacted severely by such an extreme measure.”

But according to a recent survey conducted across the age group of 15 years and above, over 35% of the adult population in India (aged 15 or more) consume tobacco in some form or other. Around 47% males and over 20% females consume some form of tobacco.

The expert committee report has suggested doing away with concept of smoking rooms in five star hotels. This, according to hospitality experts is a touchy issue especially on the guest management front. “If my guests are shelling out extra to stay and avail of the hotel’s comfort, asking a person to not to smoke inside the hotel, including the existing smoking room, is likely to ruin the relationship which will eventually result in loss of business,” a senior official of a foreign hospitality chain said.

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