New Delhi: The Federation of All India Farmers Associations has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to align the graphic health warnings on cigarette packets with other tobacco producing countries to safeguard the growers under threat.
The associations, which represent tobacco growers in India, have also sought action against global NGOs, which were allegedly trying to push for higher pictorial warnings on tobacco and cigarette packets without talking about major economies like the US, Japan and China, which have no pictorial warnings.
A parliamentary committee recently advocated pictorial warnings on tobacco and cigarette packets to be brought down to 50 percent from 85 percent, saying that the latter figure will be too harsh on the tobacco industry.
In 2015-16, over 25 tobacco farmers committed suicide over the lack of revenue due to the rise in taxes and pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco products.
"These anti-tobacco activists and NGOs are putting one-sided and statistically doubtful data to cast a sense of urgency on tobacco control in the minds of policy makers.
"If claims of these vested groups with regard to pictorial health warnings were scientifically valid, why would the US, which has the most stringent health protocols in the world, only follow text-based warnings, that too only on the side of the pack (US has zero percent pictorial warnings on both sides of the pack)," said the letter written to Modi.
According to the Tobacco Institute of India, there were over two lakh tobacco growers in the country and the industry provides further employment to lakhs of others.
The association also demanded Modi to set up a team to get investigated the alleged hidden agenda of the activists, their source of funds, purpose, utilisation, individual/institutional wealth prior to and post-tobacco activism.