After the ban on advertising of tobacco products, the next big challenge is arriving at a consensus on the new packaging design. Different manufacturers have expressed divergent views on how to accommodate the `Tobacco Kills' line and the skull-and-bones depiction on the packs.
According to senior officials in the Health Ministry, at the last meeting of the expert committee on tobacco, the beedi and gutka companies expressed their difficulty in changing the packaging design.
"While the cigarette companies do not have too many problems except that it would require investment, the gutka companies have said that since their pack sizes are small, it would be difficult for them to accommodate large warning signs. A similar view was also expressed by the beedi-makers," said officials.
However, the Government is unlikely to relax the norms for any product category. The tobacco legislation has said that the manner in which specified warning should be made and the language in which it would be expressed will be notified in the rules to the Act.
Meanwhile, the tobacco industry is keen on a uniform policy. An official at Godfrey Phillips India said that there were question marks over the ability of the entire industry to shift to the uniform norms, more so in the case of the unorganised sector including beedi and smaller gutka players, who account for 86 per cent of the market.
According to the Tobacco Institute of India, which represented the tobacco industry in the meeting, the industry view was unanimous that the regulations should be applicable equally and uniformly on all forms of tobacco consumption. The institute said that adequate time should be given to implement the product labelling provisions, as has been the practice followed by other countries where tobacco regulations have been legislated.
It further added that the regulations needed to take into account the fragmented and unique nature of tobacco consumption in India.
"The regulations should not be based on a Western model, where cigarettes represent the dominant form of tobacco consumption, accounting for as much as 90 per cent of the tobacco consumed," it said.