The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday directed all tobacco companies to implement the rule mandating 85% pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco products.

A Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy said manufacturers should endeavour to comply with the ministry notification issued under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2008 (COTPA) until the Karnataka High Court takes a final decision on the challenges against certain amendments in the law.

The court said manufacturers have to comply with the government’s rules with immediate effect.

# Tobacco Firms

In force since April 1, the stringent rules mandate an increase in the size of health warnings from the current 20 percent of the surface of a cigarette packet to up to 85 percent.

During the hearing, the court observed that in public interest, tobacco companies should act responsibly and said the awareness created on the issue would help curb the ill-effects of its usage.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by the Karnataka Beedi Industry Association, which sought a stay on the enforcement of the new rules, saying these would cause grave and irreparable harm to the tobacco industry.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre informed the court that the Government of India supported the enforcement of the rules and all steps had been taken to implement the notification. He opposed grant of stay as sought by the tobacco industry.

Senior counsel Arvin P. Datar, appearing for the Tobacco Institute of India submitted that subsequent to the notification the industry had come to a standstill and thousands of workers were rendered jobless across India.

He argued that the amendment rules were ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable and had been issued without jurisdiction.

India has about 110 million smokers and the government says smoking kills nearly a million people every year.

Petitioner Umesh Narain Sharma, an Allahabad-based lawyer had said that cigarette and bidi companies were violating the rules pertaining topictorial warnings on packets of cigarettes and other products.

Tobacco Firms Should Use Larger Pictorial Warnings; SC