New Delhi: The controversy over comments by BJP MPs, including those in a parliamentary panel, on the use of tobacco refused to die down with former Union Health Minister and NDA ally PMK's A Ramadoss on Friday coming down hard on such "foolish" arguments even as government "disassociated" itself from the remarks.
After the controversial remarks by BJP MPs Dilip Gandhi and Shyam Charan Gupta, another BJP MP Ram Prasad Sarmah waded into the row, claiming there is no clear proof yet linking cigarette puffing and cancer.
Both Gandhi and Gupta are members of Parliamentary Committee of Subordinate Legislation looking into the rules regarding tobacco sale in the country. Gupta is also a beedi baron.
When asked Health Minister J P Nadda said the government did not "subscribe" to their remarks suggesting "nil" effect of smoking.
He asserted that his ministry is "consistent" on its stand that tobacco and its consumption has to be reduced.
"The ministry, the party and I do not associate ourselves with his (Gupta) statement. We disassociate ourselves. He is an MP and member of the committee, I would not like to comment on him. The party, the health ministry and I do not subscribe with his view," he said, adding the issue will be decided on merit.
Ramadoss termed the remarks by the BJP MPs as "foolish" and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give directions to ensure that pictorial warnings on tobacco products are increased to 85 per cent as planned earlier.
"It is high time the Prime Minister intervened. I appeal to him to order the Health Ministry to increase pictorial warning to be raised to 85 per cent immediately," the PMK founder leader told reporters in Chennai.
Terming the tobacco lobby as one of the most powerful, he alleged it 'instigated' employees to speak against such proposed rules, claiming that "it would hurt the employees in tobacco growing and beedi manufacturing firms."
"I was myself a victim of this lobby," Ramadoss said. While Gandhi, who is the head of the parliamentary panel, had said that there was Indian study to show the link between tobacco usage and cancer Gupta said he could produce a lot of people who are chain smokers of beedi and have had no disease till date.