COTPA Current Affairs

Bihar Government bans sale of loose cigarettes

Bihar Government has banned sale of loose cigarettes in the state. This decision aims to be deterrent to kids and youngsters who start smoking by buying loose cigarettes.

In this regard, state health department has issued notification under Section 20 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003. Bihar is the 12th state in the country to bring such a ban into effect after Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi and others.

Key Facts

Section 20 of COTPA, 2003 makes sale, distribution, purchase, display and advertisement of tobacco products without essential pictorial warnings a punishable offence. As the loose cigarettes don’t have pictorial warnings, thus its sale, distribution, purchase, display and advertisement is banned under COTPA, 2003.

As per Global Adults Tobacco Survey (GATS), 53.5% adults consume tobacco in one or other form in Bihar while 9% of this 53.5% are addicted to cigarette. Large number of state population is dependent on loose cigarettes, including teenagers. The decision of banning sale of loose cigarettes will save children from cigarette consumption as kids and teenagers are not able to buy the whole packet but go for loose cigarettes.

COTPA, 2003

It is an Act of Parliament enacted in 2003 to prohibit advertisement of and to provide for regulation of trade and commerce in and production, supply and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India. It was enacted by Parliament to give effect to Resolution passed by 39th World Health Assembly (WHA), urging member states to implement measures to provide non-smokers protection from involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke.

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Karnataka HC strikes down 85% pictorial warning rule for tobacco

The Karnataka High Court has struck down 2014 amendment rules that mandated pictorial health warnings to cover 85% of tobacco product packaging space, holding that they violated Constitutional norms. However, it made it clear that 40% pictorial health warning rule, which existed prior to amendment rules, will remain in force.

The HC passed the order on batch of petitions filed by various tobacco manufacturing companies and others from across country, challenging the 85% pictorial warning rule notified by the Union Health Ministry.

Background

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules (COTPA), 2014 came into effect from April 2016. It had increased mandated pictorial health warnings of tobacco product packaging space to 85% from 40%.  In May 2016, Supreme Court had transferred all petitions against the 85% rule filed in various high courts to Karnataka High Court and asked it to hear and dispose of them.

Petitioners case

The Tobacco Institute of India and others had challenged enforcement of the COTPA which required printing of pictorial health warnings covering 85% of tobacco product packages. The petitioners argued that these rules were impractical and will boost smuggling of imported cigarettes.

Tobacco industry Position

There was no evidence to show smoking causes diseases depicted in the extremely gruesome and unreasonable pictures. Global average size for graphic health warnings (GHWs) was only about 30% of the principal display area. Moreover, top three cigarette consuming countries– the US, China and Japan which together account for 51 per cent of global cigarette consumption–have only text based warnings and not adopted GHWs.

HC order

Union Health Ministry does not have any jurisdictional power to make such rules. Even if the health ministry enjoyed power to make such rules, they violated constitutional norms as it was an unreasonable restriction on the right to do business guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution.

From perspective of tobacco growers, such rules violated the Right To Equality under Article 14 of the Constitution because there was no connection between images and the warnings. Rules cannot be made to scare people but to issue notifications.

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