Tobacco Free Kerala – a coalition of like-minded organisations for tobacco control – lauds the public-health friendly stance taken by the apex court while upholding the rule mandating 85 per cent pictorial warnings on all tobacco products.
Pronouncing its judgement, the Division Bench of the Supreme Court led by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India noted in its 13-page-order that “health of a citizen has primacy” and that citizens are entitled to know about things that cause “destruction of health”, implying tobacco in this instance.
Attorney General Mr. K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Union of India, said that “life sans health is not worth living and the chewing of tobacco or smoking of cigarettes or bidis, etc. causes irretrievable hazard to health and it is the obligation of the State to make the people aware as regards the injurious nature of these indulgences.”
Addiction to tobacco “becomes the killing factor or causation of pain, suffering, agony, anguish and ultimately death”, he had submitted.
The stay comes on the order of the Karnataka High Court that struck down the 85 per cent pictorial warnings rule on 15 December 2017.
It was on October 15, 2014, that the Union Health Ministry brought out a notification requiring tobacco companies to devote 85 per cent of all tobacco product packs including bidis, cigarettes, and smokeless items to pictorial warnings. After some delay, it took effect from 1 April 2016.
With this judgement, India has also maintained its global image by retaining the third position on pack warnings in its ranking of 205 countries as per the “Cigarette Package Health Warning International Status Report” put out by the Canadian Cancer Society in October 2016.