New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the tobacco industry to adhere to rules requiring stringent health warnings on cigarette packs, but ordered the Karnataka High Court to hear all pleas challenging the same.
The tobacco industry “should not violate any rule prevailing as of today,” the two-judge bench said. “We are making it very clear that no High court order is valid until the matter is fully disposed by the Karnataka High Court,” the apex court said.
Last month, the tobacco companies, some backed by foreign “Big Tobacco”, shut down production in protest against requirements that 85 per cent of a cigarette pack’s surface be covered in health warnings, up from 20 per cent.
The tobacco industry has taken the government to court, saying the rules are impractical and will boost smuggling of imported cigarettes. The government backs the stringent rules to cut tobacco consumption.
Smoking kills more than one million people every year in India, according to BMJ Global Health. The World Health Organisation says tobacco-related diseases cost India $16 billion annually.