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Last Updated : Apr 16, 2016 03:53 PM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

No proof pictorial warnings deter smoking: Farmers assocation

Bhiku Bhai Patel, the President of the Gujarat Tobacco Merchants Association, says that even with only 40 percent pictorial warning on the packs, the cigarette consumption never went down as there is no data available to support the government's claim.

Tobacco farmers and retailers heaved a sigh of relief after the FMCG giant ITC Limited decided to resume the manufacturing of cigarettes at its factories. The move came after a high court order passed in favour of the company.

Bhiku Bhai Patel, the President of the Gujarat Tobacco Merchants Association, says that even with only 40 percent pictorial warning on the packs, the cigarette consumption never went down as there is no data available to support the government's claim.

Below is the transcript of Bhiku Bhai Patel's interview with CNBC-TV18's Areeb Sherwani.

Q: Tobacco farmers of Gujarat represent 48 percent of India's farm land under Tobacco cultivation. Is there a sense of relief among farmers now that ITC has said it will resume the manufacturing of cigarettes?

A: I don't know whether they have resumed or not. However you are right, Gujarat has 48 percent of tobacco production in whole country, all other states are 52 percent and Gujarat is 48 percent. Out of 48 percent we produce only beedi tobacco and chewing tobacco. In Gujarat we never produce cigarette tobacco.

Q: Most tobacco manufacturers have said that the government order on the pictorial warnings issue has been vague, do you agree with that assessment, that it is a vague pictorial warning? Also given that the government had come out with the notification in September last year, so that gives tobacco manufacturers and producers enough time to come to terms with that?

A: When the pictorial warning was not there at that time, too, 40 percent pictorial warning was there on tobacco products. I am a farmer, I am not a database man, I would like to know whether how much changes or how much consumption went down when pictorial warning was there and after 2014. That data is not available. Has the warning benefited?

Q: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) their reports says that 3 out of 5 people do see pictorial warnings in advertisements and on tobacco products and they do seem to be affected by it. Globally we are seeing the usage of tobacco products go down that is also because they have made the pricing so exorbitant that it is out of most consumers reach. Do you think India is also headed towards that path?

A: I would like to focus one as per my knowledge that other than India nobody in the world has imposed this kind of strict condition on the labour. If you see Australia, if you see the USA, if you see the UK, I think they are not as strict as what our people are thinking. First question is that cigarette is not Indian origin; cigarette is a migrated from the world to this country. It is machine made cigarette. It is not a man made cigarette.

If you say like that then it is beedi, so beedi is a cottage industry. Beedi is our Indian origin and we are farmer. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka or wherever we farm the tobacco we are framer. We are not farmer from today or yesterday or day before yesterday. We are farmer from 125 years. Take my thing; this is my second generation as I am a farmer. We are farming only tobacco and we are not farming anything other than tobacco.
First Published on Apr 16, 2016 03:49 pm
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